One thing you have to give to the government/Communist Party leadership in China is that they are ever vigilant about ways people can get information.
In the early days it was merely controlling the newspapers and radio stations. Now, with the Internet and SMS with mobile phones, the Party has been in the forefront of keeping the outside world from informing the Chinese people.
It is almost an annual event that new regulations about online news organizations are put forward.
- 2005: “The most obvious feature of the new regulations is that they focus on “Internet news.” The following statement from the official news agency Xinhua makes the intention clear: “The state bans the spreading of any news with content that is against national security and public interest.” The regulation defines “Internet news” as, “current events news information, and includes reporting and commentary relating to politics, economics, military affairs, foreign affairs, and social and public affairs, as well as reporting and commentary relating to fast-breaking social events.”
- 2016: Last month (July), the CAC released new rules prohibiting news websites from using social media as a source, and later announced fines for major internet news sites for publishing independent content. These new rules on internet news reporting come amid the Xi administration’s steady increase of control over the news media in China.
To back up all the rules and regulations, the government has the Great Firewall of China in an effort to block outside influences. (New York Times, twitter, Facebook, etc.) And they have a cadre (some say millions) of people hired to actively counter any “non-positive” comments about China on the Internet. This group is known as the Fifty Cents Party because people are reportedly paid 50 cents for each comment they attack with a “positive” message.
Needless to say, Chinese netizens have had some fun with the 50 Cent Party
Maybe censorship is the government’s way of ensuring full employment, because reportedly millions are employed to monitor and report on unauthorized information on the Internet.
All this is in addition to the pronouncements of President Xi that the role of the media (and journalists) is to be a lap dog for the Party: “[Journalists] must love the party, protect the party, and closely align themselves with the party leadership in thought, politics and action,”Love the Party” first.
Needless to say, such a position is a violation of the ethics of any independent journalist or honest news organization not matter what country.
In addition to the Chinese government and ruling party doing all they can to stop information they don’t control from coming in, they are also trying to control what news outlets outside China can and should say:
- Australia: Chinese language newspapers in Australia: Beijing controls messaging, propaganda in press – Sydney Morning Herald
- Hong Kong: As Beijing tightens grip on Hong Kong media, mainland journalists suffer – Committee to Protect Journalists
The communist theory of media control is as old as Lenin setting up Pravda. The difference now is that there are so many different ways to get information thanks to mobile phones and the Internet that repressive government such as the one in China must waste more and more money on monitoring and jamming sites that might carry unauthorized material.
And to be sure, China is not alone. Nor are communist countries the only ones that go in for massive intrusion into Internet freedom. Just think of Turkey (pre- and post-coup), Saudi Arabia or Thailand.
Just think about how much more these countries could do if they focused their resources on growth and development instead of repression of free expression.