"Censorship superfluous in Xi's 'New Era'"

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"Censorship superfluous in Xi's 'New Era'"

Postby Tom on Thu Nov 02, 2017 11:08 am

https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/censorship-superfluous-xi-s-new-era

Louisa Lim

Tiny children sit in a row on miniature wooden chairs, their attention focused on a television screen showing Chinese President Xi Jinping in full oration mode, in incongruous juxtaposition beside the candyfloss-pink play castle of their kindergarten. In hospitals, patients have Xi beamed to the screens above their beds, his image interspersed with hanging drips. In jail, prisoners sit cross-legged upon the bare boards that serve as their beds, notebooks and pens ready to take notes as they watch Xi Jinping. These Orwellian scenes ricocheted across Weibo as Xi spoke for 205 minutes at the opening of the 19th Party Congress.

This new breed of watch parties is startling in its fervour and the showiness of its loyalty, a visual throwback to Cultural Revolution days when sycophancy was a survival mechanism. Even the décor is retro-Maoist, with banners proclaiming 'Long Live the Great Communist Party of China!' and canny villagers waving miniature Chinese flags. At the end of the Congress, a new banner term was unveiled: 'Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era'.

This New Era is one of rigid ideological conformity applied not only to the present and future, but retrospectively to the past, both inside and increasingly outside China. As media scholar David Bandurski notes, the emphasis on Xi's banner term 'marching out' explicitly couches it 'as a vision not just for China, but for the entire world'.

The implications for scholarship on China are long-lasting and profound. Beijing is picking up pace in its efforts to export ideological conformity by coercing Western publishers to block content perceived as politically sensitive. In recent days, two more incidences have surfaced in the wake of the uproar over Cambridge University Press, which first agreed and then demurred to remove 300 papers from its archive inside China. In a case first reported by the Financial Times, Springer Nature has now blocked access in China to at least 1000 articles containing words deemed sensitive such as 'Taiwan', 'Tibet' and 'Cultural Revolution'. Springer told the FT that the censored articles constituted less than 1% of the company's content.

Another case has emerged regarding work published in Critical Asian Studies by two Italian scholars, Claudia Pozzana and Alessandro Russo, on the prominent Chinese intellectual Wang Hui. Two articles were published without permission in Chinese volumes, one of which was edited by Wang Hui himself. Among the material removed was a large chunk of a paper discussing the protest movement of 1989 and Wang Hui's own analysis of the movement. 'The censors' zealous hand has struck not only the most critical points from our papers but, in doing so, has removed the basis of our intent,' a statement from the Italian academics read. It is notable that they refrained from blaming Wang Hui, even though his actions whitewashed the past, as if the events of 1989 had simply not happened.

The ideological work surrounding Xi's Thought has already started in earnest inside China. Beijing's prestigious Renmin University is taking the lead in pioneering Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, but has been followed closely by at least nineteen other academic institutions. The education ministry is putting the Thought of President Xi on primary and secondary school curricula almost immediately, or 'into textbooks, into classes, and into the brains (of students)', as Education Minister Chen Baosheng phrased it. For adults, there will be study groups set up in cities across China, according to the Global Times.

China has been laying the groundwork for years. In May, lawmakers amended the civil code to add the offence of historical nihilism, meaning that the defamation of Communist heroes and martyrs is now a civil offence. This targets any work offering unauthorised perspectives on Chinese history, such as Hong Zhenkuai's work questioning elements of the patriotic tale of the Five Heroes of Langya Mountain.

These moves are also affecting Western scholars. In a recent episode of the Little Red Podcast, the University of Melbourne's Dayton Lekner described how he was interrogated by internal security over his research on the 1957-59 Anti-Rightist movement, while legal scholar Glenn Tiffert of the Hoover Institution unveiled his research showing empirical evidence of Chinese censorship of the electronic archives of legal journals to excise evidence of earlier debate on legal issues.

One academic spoke of how, while visiting China, they did not dare telephone their Chinese collaborators for fear that contact alone would cause trouble. Another Westerner reported that, following the 2011 pro-democracy protests nicknamed the Jasmine revolution, the names of certain flowers were censored from their work because of their political sensitivity. That reminded me of an anecdote I was told by author Yan Lianke in 2012. He was so tired of censorship that he decided to give up writing on anything but his garden. Nature, he figured, was beyond reproach. To his dismay, censors excised his description of ants marching across a tree trunk like soldiers (in an unfortunate addendum that reads like one of his absurdist novels, his beloved garden was destroyed when his brand new house, purchased just four years before, was demolished to make way for a building project).

As the author of a book on the legacy of Tiananmen, it is notable that the 1989 protests have become more – rather than less – sensitive over time. Authorities have stepped up their action against those who publicly commemorate those deaths, such as activist Chen Yunfei who was given four years in prison after he was detained visiting the grave of a 1989 victim. The protests of 1989, and the resulting crackdown, have largely been expunged from the collective memory. How long before those who mention it are seen as historical nihilists?

While giving talks at universities in Australia, the US and Europe, I have noticed a shift in questioning among young Chinese students in the audience. When my book first came out in 2014, they would question whether Beijing's suppression of the movement was so very different from crackdowns elsewhere. Recently, the questions are more likely to be underpinned by the logic of stability maintenance, circling around the idea that the very knowledge of 1989 is damaging. 'Why do we have to look back to this time in history? Why do you think it will be helpful to current and nowadays China, especially our young generation? Do you think it could be harmful to what the Chinese government calls the "Harmonious Society"?', one young Chinese audience member asked me in June.

Such discourse makes the preliminary findings of a new draft paper all the more apposite. The paper, co-authored by Yuyu Chen at Peking University and David Y Yang at Stanford, seems to indicate the success of the Communist Party's censorship of the internet. The researchers provided more than 1000 undergraduate students from two Beijing universities free access to software allowing them to bypass internet censorship. Eighteen months later, nearly half the students had not bothered to use their unfettered internet access. Of those who had used it, less than 5% browsed foreign news websites. One reason for this low uptake was the belief that such uncensored information was simply not valuable. Their curiosity had effectively been neutered. The researchers conclude that lifting censorship on the internet is unlikely to be effective because Chinese citizens have such low demand for uncensored information.

The paper starts with a quote from Neil Postman: 'What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who would want to read one.' The ideological conformity of the New Era hints at a frightening prospect: that both Orwell and Huxley's fears could be realised simultaneously in Xi Jinping's China.
Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward.

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Re: "Censorship superfluous in Xi's 'New Era'"

Postby Bao on Thu Nov 02, 2017 3:52 pm

Very interesting article.

Eighteen months later, nearly half the students had not bothered to use their unfettered internet access. Of those who had used it, less than 5% browsed foreign news websites. One reason for this low uptake was the belief that such uncensored information was simply not valuable. Their curiosity had effectively been neutered. The researchers conclude that lifting censorship on the internet is unlikely to be effective because Chinese citizens have such low demand for uncensored information.


Lifting censorship should be effective for what? Did I miss something or what was the point of lifting censorship? Sure, the censorship is superfluous and unnecessary, that's true. It's easy to go over the wall and you won't be punished if you do it. But yes, there is not much interest to do so and the authorities don't care very much if someone do. But there are other reasons for not allowing pages like Google, youtube and Facebook as well. China already have their own versions of search engines and social media. Why would they want these western companies to earn money on the Chinese market? Are Google and Facebook really the only way to communicate with the other side of the world? Of course not.

Anyway, many things goes in the right direction in China to a more open and equal society and Xi seems to want to do good things. We'll see what will happen in the next few years.
Last edited by Bao on Thu Nov 02, 2017 3:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: "Censorship superfluous in Xi's 'New Era'"

Postby windwalker on Thu Nov 02, 2017 4:30 pm

What they do directly in order to preserve their Society in the US private companies do indirectly in order to preserve the company. They have no allegiance to the society that allows them to do so.
Last edited by windwalker on Thu Nov 02, 2017 5:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: "Censorship superfluous in Xi's 'New Era'"

Postby Michael on Thu Nov 02, 2017 5:23 pm

'Why do we have to look back to this time in history? Why do you think it will be helpful to current and nowadays China, especially our young generation? Do you think it could be harmful to what the Chinese government calls the "Harmonious Society"?', one young Chinese audience member asked me in June.


Abstinence of thought seems to be the totalitarian effect.

After being forced to memorize volumes of incomprehensible rubbish on Socialism with Chinese characteristics, and history with Orwellian features, most of my students emerge from the Chinese education system with a strong hatred of politics and history. If they have finished college, very few would ever step foot into a museum purely out of curiosity of the past and would only do so as part of a tour group or for a very brief sight-seeing stop while on vacation, not that Chinese museums are worth stopping into.

In addition to avoiding history because they were instilled with a hatred of it by the education system, they also avoid it for pragmatic reasons: knowing things [about the past, etc.] only causes trouble, so let's not think about it.

As first world countries outsource their wealth to China, this attitude is being returned to them, an attitude of dominance and intolerance for dissent. China's not the only country who does that, but they attempt to do it at all levels, including maintaining control over PRC students abroad by encouraging their classmates to report Chinese who go against the motherland, as seen recently by the attacks on the Chinese student who gave a speech in Maryland and referenced the air pollution in China. If she had not apologized quickly, pressure would have been put on her family by the govt.
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Re: "Censorship superfluous in Xi's 'New Era'"

Postby Trick on Thu Nov 02, 2017 9:51 pm

Bao wrote:Very interesting article.

Eighteen months later, nearly half the students had not bothered to use their unfettered internet access. Of those who had used it, less than 5% browsed foreign news websites. One reason for this low uptake was the belief that such uncensored information was simply not valuable. Their curiosity had effectively been neutered. The researchers conclude that lifting censorship on the internet is unlikely to be effective because Chinese citizens have such low demand for uncensored information.


Lifting censorship should be effective for what? Did I miss something or what was the point of lifting censorship? Sure, the censorship is superfluous and unnecessary, that's true. It's easy to go over the wall and you won't be punished if you do it. But yes, there is not much interest to do so and the authorities don't care very much if someone do. But there are other reasons for not allowing pages like Google, youtube and Facebook as well. China already have their own versions of search engines and social media. Why would they want these western companies to earn money on the Chinese market? Are Google and Facebook really the only way to communicate with the other side of the world? Of course not.

Anyway, many things goes in the right direction in China to a more open and equal society and Xi seems to want to do good things. We'll see what will happen in the next few years.

Yes, this is very much what I'm seeing here in China. Take an international flight out from or to China, it's full of Chinese, the only travel restrictions they have are other countries visa restrictions. Most Chinese are not interested to follow the political spectacles going on in the "west", most are interested doing and minding their own businesses, which in many cases seem to be more easy in China than in the "west"
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Re: "Censorship superfluous in Xi's 'New Era'"

Postby Trick on Thu Nov 02, 2017 10:20 pm

Michael wrote:
'Why do we have to look back to this time in history? Why do you think it will be helpful to current and nowadays China, especially our young generation? Do you think it could be harmful to what the Chinese government calls the "Harmonious Society"?', one young Chinese audience member asked me in June.


Abstinence of thought seems to be the totalitarian effect.

After being forced to memorize volumes of incomprehensible rubbish on Socialism with Chinese characteristics, and history with Orwellian features, most of my students emerge from the Chinese education system with a strong hatred of politics and history. If they have finished college, very few would ever step foot into a museum purely out of curiosity of the past and would only do so as part of a tour group or for a very brief sight-seeing stop while on vacation, not that Chinese museums are worth stopping into.

In addition to avoiding history because they were instilled with a hatred of it by the education system, they also avoid it for pragmatic reasons: knowing things [about the past, etc.] only causes trouble, so let's not think about it.

As first world countries outsource their wealth to China, this attitude is being returned to them, an attitude of dominance and intolerance for dissent. China's not the only country who does that, but they attempt to do it at all levels, including maintaining control over PRC students abroad by encouraging their classmates to report Chinese who go against the motherland, as seen recently by the attacks on the Chinese student who gave a speech in Maryland and referenced the air pollution in China. If she had not apologized quickly, pressure would have been put on her family by the govt.

Yes maybe your information there is true, I have never had insight in to the Chinese education system. I have an American friend in Dalian who worked for a university there, that guy often talked how great USofA is and the many things he thought is bad in China, one student(probably felt bored by the talk) reported him, my friend got an ultimatum either he change his "teaching" or he can leave the university....nothing strange with that I think. If a Chinese student hold speeches in foreign universities on "how bad things are in their homeland" it might reach the Chinese government, I don't know about that, maybe the students parents are party members or/ and work within government in some way( not unusual) so it becomes more of an family matter in that way...kind of indirectly blaming once own family.
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Re: "Censorship superfluous in Xi's 'New Era'"

Postby windwalker on Thu Nov 02, 2017 10:37 pm

Michael wrote:
including maintaining control over PRC students abroad by encouraging their classmates to report Chinese who go against the motherland, as seen recently by the attacks on the Chinese student who gave a speech in Maryland and referenced the air pollution in China. If she had not apologized quickly, pressure would have been put on her family by the govt.




Growing up in China, “I was convinced that only authorities owned the
narrative,” Ms. Yang, a theater and psychology major from the southern city of

Do they?

Kunming, told the crowd in a basketball arena in College Park, Md. “Only authorities could define the truth.
The speech on Sunday drew harsh criticism, however, from some of Ms. Yang’s Chinese classmates in Maryland and from legions of social media users in China, many of whom accused her of selling out her homeland. Even the city of Kunming weighed in, saying in a message on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, that her comments about the city’s air pollution were “not related to us.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/23/worl ... uping.html

Who defines the truth in the US if there is such a thing.
The vaunted free press that the US claims it has?

It seems like it was much more then just the authorities.
I agree she was selling out her homeland expecting what?
She still has to go back to it. Bad move.... :P
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Re: "Censorship superfluous in Xi's 'New Era'"

Postby windwalker on Thu Nov 02, 2017 11:17 pm

Trick wrote: If a Chinese student hold speeches in foreign universities on "how bad things are in their homeland" it might reach the Chinese government, I don't know about that, maybe the students parents are party members or/ and work within government in some way( not unusual) so it becomes more of an family matter in that way...kind of indirectly blaming once own family.


I think its often hard for people in the US to understand the concept of a society built around an ethnicity
that extends from the family, village, country. There are huge pressures not to bring shame to the family.

In some ways China is very big, in others its not...
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Re: "Censorship superfluous in Xi's 'New Era'"

Postby Trick on Thu Nov 02, 2017 11:46 pm

windwalker wrote:
Trick wrote: If a Chinese student hold speeches in foreign universities on "how bad things are in their homeland" it might reach the Chinese government, I don't know about that, maybe the students parents are party members or/ and work within government in some way( not unusual) so it becomes more of an family matter in that way...kind of indirectly blaming once own family.


I think its often hard for people in the US to understand the concept of a society built around an ethnicity
that extends from the family, village, country. There are huge pressures not to bring shame to the family.

In some ways China is very big, in others its not...

Yes exactly
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Re: "Censorship superfluous in Xi's 'New Era'"

Postby Michael on Fri Nov 03, 2017 7:15 am

Trick, that American in Dalian must have been very vocal and frequently so in the classroom to have been given such an ultimatum. It's usually only the bible thumpers who get any notice.
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Re: "Censorship superfluous in Xi's 'New Era'"

Postby grzegorz on Fri Nov 03, 2017 1:26 pm

I am not there is a anything new here. Like Trump supporters the Chinese are so brainwashed with nationalism that to raise even a question makes one look like a traitor.

I don't miss a lot about China. Although I understand it and even see where Wind is coming from none of it is really new. I think the crackdown on Hong Kong shows that basically in China you can make as much money as you would like but don't question the government and things will continue down that road.
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Re: "Censorship superfluous in Xi's 'New Era'"

Postby grzegorz on Fri Nov 03, 2017 1:37 pm

windwalker wrote:What they do directly in order to preserve their Society in the US private companies do indirectly in order to preserve the company. They have no allegiance to the society that allows them to do so.



That isn't quite the same. You sign paperwork giving up those rights while working for most companies.
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Re: "Censorship superfluous in Xi's 'New Era'"

Postby Bao on Fri Nov 03, 2017 4:54 pm

grzegorz wrote:I think the crackdown on Hong Kong shows that basically in China you can make as much money as you would like but don't question the government and things will continue down that road.


First: Occupy Hong Kong was supported from the US with millions of dollars.
Second: Occupy Hong Kong was not first and foremost a demonstration against the Chinese government, but against reforms on the electoral system.

Third: Demonstrations are not completely illegal. There are many non-violent demonstrations all over China. Last year There was an enormous demonstration in Shanghai, foremost regarding the pension and situation for elderly. The local government listened to the people and the result was good improvements in line with the cause of the demonstration.

Fourth: Occupy Hong Kong was a disaster for many store and restaurant owners who got their business completely destroyed. The demonstrants took absolutely no consideration to the Hong Kong residents who lived, worked and had business in the area.
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Re: "Censorship superfluous in Xi's 'New Era'"

Postby Trick on Fri Nov 03, 2017 9:19 pm

grzegorz wrote:Chinese are so brainwashed with nationalism
would you say the same about for example Japanese who also love their country but are not under the rule of Communism? Is it the Chinese people who love their homeland or Communism you dont like?
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Re: "Censorship superfluous in Xi's 'New Era'"

Postby Trick on Fri Nov 03, 2017 10:03 pm

Bao wrote:
grzegorz wrote:I think the crackdown on Hong Kong shows that basically in China you can make as much money as you would like but don't question the government and things will continue down that road.


First: Occupy Hong Kong was supported from the US with millions of dollars.
Second: Occupy Hong Kong was not first and foremost a demonstration against the Chinese government, but against reforms on the electoral system.

Third: Demonstrations are not completely illegal. There are many non-violent demonstrations all over China. Last year There was an enormous demonstration in Shanghai, foremost regarding the pension and situation for elderly. The local government listened to the people and the result was good improvements in line with the cause of the demonstration.

Fourth: Occupy Hong Kong was a disaster for many store and restaurant owners who got their business completely destroyed. The demonstrants took absolutely no consideration to the Hong Kong residents who lived, worked and had business in the area.

Interesting is that the CCP and the KMT both most probably spawned from the one and same source, both heavily influenced py foreign powers and most certainly also financed by foreign powers. My personal belief is that foreign powers also supported the uprising back in 1989 where they hoped for a quick end of communism in China as it had also happened around the same time in east Germany and eventually Sovjet Union. It did not work with China but instead had kind of a reversed effect. Foreign powers have tried many ways to get complete control of China ever since the opium wars or maybe it goes further back as to the Jesuits China/East Asia missions
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