You are here
Internet, Censorship and Political Participation in China
Internet, Censorship and Political Participation in China
Monday, 18 October 2010
Barnard Professor of Political Science Xiaobo Lü, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism Professor and Founder of the China Digital Times Xiao Qiang, and Barnard Associate Professor of Sociology Guobin Yang convened to participate in a panel discussion moderated by Columbia Journalism School Professor Howard French. They gathered to discuss how the Internet manifests among China’s current 420 million Internet users, especially in terms of the interplay between the government and China’s citizens via online discourse. Despite government regulation, Lü argued that the Internet is a powerful tool for political change because it generates discussion about government policy among the growing number of Internet users, giving citizens the opportunity to express their opinions and pressurizing the government toward policy change.
Lü began the discussion by explaining how the Chinese government provides public goods while controlling coordination goods, such as human rights, free press, access to higher education, and the Internet. Because of restrictions on the latter, China’s netizens, over one-quarter of those who are from rural areas, use the Internet primarily for entertainment, online news, instant messaging, and online games. But Lü then pointed out that in a non-democratic system, the power of the Internet is in fact enhanced. Ironically, 88 percent of Chinese netizens have written blogs to express opinions, while only 32 percent of users have done so within America’s free speech borders.
Xiao, who spends his time in Chinese cyberspace because he cannot return to China, believes that “censorship is a violence against humans.” He employed the metaphors of “playing field” and “battlefield” to describe China’s online environment. Users play on entertainment websites, but they are also pushing against the government by authoring blogs and cartooning. Xiao also feels that the Internet is becoming “more a door than a war. At least the door is opening, and once the door is open it is very hard to close. The Internet gives me hope for more political change.” Lü remarked that ultimately technology reigns outside of the reaches of government regulations because it is such a vast entity in itself. It is this that gives hope for political change down the road.
Yang agreed with Xiao’s idea that the Chinese government uses the Internet as a safety valve to test out citizen opinions. Yang believes the power of the Internet is growing, not because of loosening political control, but rather because of the persistence of shocking forms of political injustice. Migrant groups work together to protest through the Internet, activism is seeping into the Twitter realm, and Chinese rights consciousness is growing.
Lü, Xiao, and Yang see the Internet as a power shifting force. Lü noted a time when the government invited three netizen delegates to a local government council meeting— an occurrence that he felt was simply “amazing.” French pointed out that the government knows it needs to use the Internet as an economically indispensible tool to gauge citizen opinions.
At intermission, the audience turned its attention to United States Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman on live webcast from Beijing as part of the National Committee on United States-China Relations’ CHINA Town Hall. He contributed to the Internet discussion, stressing that “bloggers are the ones pushing the envelope,” and that China and the USA need passionate next generations to keep global communication open and flowing.
APEC Study Center at Columbia University
Columbia University, 3022 Broadway
2M-9 Uris Hall
New York, NY 10027-7004
The ‘History Problem’
My Fight for a New Taiwan: One Woman's Journey from Prison to Power
Culture and Everyday Life in North Korea
The Curl Ideas to wrap your mind around
Just In Time for Veterans Day: Iraq War Veteran Ed Reynolds '16 Named Inaugural Recipient of Bernard Gray Fellowship
Ed Reynolds '16 is the first recipient of the Bernard Gray Fellowship.Read More
Private Equity in India: An Insider's View
Vishal Bakshi '00, managing director of principal investments in India for Goldman Sachs, opens up about the thorny world of private equity in a country dominated by family-owned businesses.Read More
Columbia Business School Professor Predicts How Changes in Banking Laws Could Fuel Emerging Economies of Tomorrow
New research tracks emerging countries’ economics activity after law changes and finds a boost in access to credit; increase in employment rate; increase in productivity and sales for firmsRead More
Power Isn't Enough: Study Reveals the Missing Link for Effective Leadership
New research from Columbia Business School shows that powerful leaders fail to listen properly and take others’ accounts into perspective, jeopardizing the impact they could haveRead More
How Can You Be Entrepreneurial in Any Organization?
Vince Ponzo '03 demystifies the entrepreneurial mindset.Read More
“Lean Startup” Innovation — Not Just for Startups
"Lean startup" methodology has a place in established enterprises as well as startups, says Columbia Business School instructor Bob Dorf.Read More
Ebola and Global Inequality
The ebola crisis is a stark reminder of the downside of globalization, says Columbia Business School's resident Nobel laureate.Read More
Students Pitch Their Startups at the Fall Venture Fair 2014
Columbia Business School students pitched their startups at the 2014 Fall Venture Fair.Read More
Stef Wertheimer, Founder of ISCAR, Awarded 2014 Deming Cup
Stef Wertheimer, founder of ISCAR, Ltd., is the recipient of the prestigious 2014 Deming Cup for operational excellence.Read More