A German View on Censorship and the Internet in China

Google translation of a South Germany Times Suddeutsche Zeitung commentary on Chinese censorship. A fine article, just be tolerant of a little computer awkwardness.

The Internet could overcome dictatorships, it is always. But that’s true? Let’s see to Hong Kong. There currently running an endurance test for the largest censorship and propaganda apparatus in the world. So far, it is working well.
By Kai Strittmatter
The empowerment of the powerless, that’s a promise, wearing all new media in themselves. You are always a threat to the status quo. Also the internet was from the beginning a dream. China’s attempt to censor the power exulted, Bill Clinton, was as promising as the, “to nail a jelly to the wall”. . In 2000, the Chinese people listened to the prophecy, hastily built a new Great Wall, the Great Firewall, hit a few nails in the cracks, and lo and behold: He was hanging well, the pudding.
The prophets of freedom can not be discouraged. Undaunted glad the message comes from the race between the hare censor and hedgehog netizens with Eric Schmidt thus: “First they try to block you, to infiltrate a Second – and thirdly, you win.” The Google CEO said that in November 2013 he prophesied the defeat of the network monitor world within a decade.
Can relining the network optimists their confidence with the stories from Twitter uprising in Tunisia, of the Facebook revolution in Egypt, from the Youtube-Maidan agitation of activists in Kiev. And now Hong Kong: Fire Chat, Telegram, WeChat, the app arsenal of cleverly organizing students taught the European newspaper readers once again a whole new vocabulary of rebellion. The struggle for freedom and its technological base, which is part of the media now together often.

That the gentlemen in Beijing seem amazing just the power not to fear. 632 million Chinese use the Internet, half of them in social networks. And the government is building the infrastructure with a vengeance. Because they benefit the economy and make the country strong. The online retailer Hangzhou Alibaba makes more sales together as Amazon and Ebay. In April, the network celebrated its 20th anniversary in the country, party chief Xi Jinping celebrates China as coming “Cyber Power”, the news agency Xinhua raved about the “innovation” of China, we owe a “unique Internet Management”: commercialism and control unites again fertile. China loves the power. The party loves it even more so.
the blink
Not long ago, it looked as if a window had opened. Four amazing years from 2009 to 2013 were China’s netizens believe freedom of speech is they like in the womb. Guilt had the social media, especially the micro-blogging service Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter. Twitter itself had the Communist Party (CP) as well as banned Facebook immediately; Weibo, the Chinese copy, it allowed of 2009.
Of course, they asserted the company with censors, but what the party initially did not understand, was the fundamental novelty of the social network: All of a sudden a message or a photo from your mobile phone could hundred thousand touch of a button in seconds, spread millionfold. A censor who took only twenty minutes was twenty minutes late. Amazing happened. There were not only previously suppressed news – about smog, over food scandals about police violence – their way to millions of readers, it also found people to each other with their ideas, thoughts and concerns that had previously thought alone.
The isolation of the individuals is a central means of domination of all authoritarian systems, in China they broke all of a sudden on.

The liberal social critic and essayist Murong Xuecun about the beginning of 2013 had six million followers. The company discovered himself, reflected about themselves. For the first time in the history of the People’s Republic of sprouted something like a bourgeois public sphere. The people fought, debated, mocked. Eventually they started in groups of hundreds, thousands to go to cyber hunt to kill corrupt cadres. Managed dozens of times them, for example, when “Uncle watches”, the more expensive they who demonstrated on the photos owned Swiss luxury watches. The citizens had discovered their power. And then everything happened very quickly. End of 2012, Xi Jinping was party leader. In August 2013 he gave the order to “recapture the commanding heights in the Internet”. And in November announced a Vice Minister of Propaganda enforcement: “Our Internet has made clean.” The nightmare was over.

The fist
Censorship works. The party took out the old weapons: intimidation, censorship, propaganda. Freshly polished and skillfully adapted to the times. Intimidation made the beginning: First, the party put out the unpleasant Blogger accounts, Murong Xuecun was the first. Then she grabbed renowned liberal opinion leaders out, arrested her, put it simply (because of “prostitution” or “economic crimes”), she broke into the prison and then put them in the pillory: The state television they were presented as a repentant sinner, the audience to deter and instruction. In September 2013, the Supreme Court adopted new rules: Who spread a “rumor”, passed more than 500 times or more than 5000 times read, risks up to three years in prison. As a politically and socially relevant medium Weibo has since been dead. Where just been a raging wild sometimes, often polemical, wise in luck, but always lively debate, there is now deathly quiet.
Censorship works, showing the case of Hong Kong. Right at the beginning of the protests blocked the censorship photo site Instagram. Hong Kong users of the popular messaging service WeChat (Chinese: Weixin) realized at some point that their messages the receiver never reached in China. The Hong Kong Anti-Censorship website “Weiboscope” reported that after tear gas attack the police a record number of messages on Weibo was deleted and blocked on the day, more than any other day this year. The news blackout is effective today. Hardly a Chinese knows what goes on in Hong Kong before him.
The Beijing Bao Pu is now publisher in Hong Kong, he once grew up in the heart of the power as a child of a high Party functionary. He knows the KP, he is familiar with the new technologies. That’s why, he says, he pessimist. Technologies believes Bao Pu, always served the camp with the larger resources. “The Internet is therefore probably the KP more than their opponents,” he says. China’s government has been around a few years from more for internal security than for the national defense. The Almighty says Stasi, Bao Pu, had only Weibo and Weixin read along: “Then they know who to arrest next.”
Weixin Weibo has now overtaken in popularity. But Weixin is essentially something else: It is a messaging service where people come together to form small groups to discuss. The move away from Weibo to Weixin is also a retreat into the private half. But the feeling of relative security that many have there, are deceiving: The Beijing who were arrested in the artists’ quarter Songzhuang three weeks ago because they had at a poetry reading in support of Hong Kong would like to participate, had previously agreed on Weixin. The Stasi read with.

The Word
The power of the Communist Party, so saw the Mao Zedong, was based from the start on two things: “the barrel of guns and the pins of the writer”. The lockout of information is not enough, you have to mind putting his own narrative. The propaganda has become more intelligent and sophisticated. Yes, now as then, there are the Hetzer with the foaming at the mouth, as when the Global Times nachruft the protesters, they left behind “a stink for ten thousand years”. But are much more effective the other pieces, the infographics professionally made, which therefore come as clever PR, the anonymous blogs masquerading as discussion from the anxious people, and declare the country people the situation this way: Hong Kong is in chaos. The protesters want to secede from China Hong Kong. There are spoiled children, which is all about economic advantage. Behind them are dark foreign powers that do not want that China is strong.
The Beijing Sina web portal managed two hours to report on Tuesday about the talks between government and students in a “live blog”, without quoting it once the students. In China news and web clips can be seen crying women, lamenting the decline of their city, and reveal that the protesters are all bought. Random mostly do not speak the interviewees in the usual Hong Kong Cantonese, but Mandarin with mainland accent.
The remarkable: for years has hijacked the terms of the West China’s propaganda. The People’s Daily writes about actually, the problem with the protesters in Hong Kong was their “anti-democratic” attitude. This “enmity against democracy” have them namely the colonial rule of the British planted. Now there is an urgent need to restore the “rule of law” in the city, say, to make the demonstrations put an end. At the same time blocked in the network all the words, which the opponents serve: About “Umbrellas” you can not talk on Weibo today. Yes, the users are creative, and they are looking forward thieving, if they can get away with “Pearl of the Orient”, where “Hong Kong” is blocked – but such small triumphs can Beijing be matter: They took them central to their discourse language, and hence any prospect of significant effect. In this race the hare wins, not the hedgehog.
The Subject
The opponent to steal the key terms and fill them with the opposite meaning is a brilliant move. It represents the compass needle simply want to south. The result is total confusion. “But if all are confused, then degenerate values to empty shells,” says Yang Lian, a poet living in London and Beijing. “And what remains are cynicism and selfishness.”
The amazing thing is so not the production of propaganda, but how good the people play along. If the Hong Kong be criticized as unpatriotic in the comments on the net, then that is not only the huge army of “Wumao”, the “50 cents” -Trolle that settle nationalist tirades on behalf of the Communist Party. You can hear the echo of the propaganda in everyday conversation in Beijing’s streets. “Almost none of my friends know what is really going on in Hong Kong,” says the essayist Murong Xuecun. “And of those who do know, 70 percent complain about Hong Kong. You can not imagine anyone advocating ideals themselves. Because in China even all idealism, all principles, all morality were wiped out because everyone is working only for their own interests and for their own profit, so he assumed all other only lower motives “There for in China a saying. With the eyes of a pig looking at people.
The nationalist-militarist education system, with which the party has covered the country in the wake of the massacre of Tiananmen Square, an impact. “The in the eighties and then infants are hopelessly lost. The brainwashing begins in kindergarten, “says a 50-year-old painter from Songzhuang, whose friends include the Hong Kong due arrested. David, a 28-year-old teacher at an elite school in Beijing, tells of his 17- and 18-year-olds: “Technically, they are super savvy. They also use a lot more than we VPN and other technologies that allow them to overcome the censorship. They use Facebook and Youtube – but only to follow for entertainment and to their stars. I give them sometimes to read books, good article from the New York Times. . But even though I’m only ten years older, they do not even understand myself, “The context in which they live is an entirely different:” The manipulation through education and propaganda of the party is perfect: you simply consume and ignore everything else , They also ignore the reality that it is made easy for them. ”
The Chinese model, the neoautoritäre seizure of the network – at the moment it works fine. And it radiates from: Other take an example of Beijing, the pioneer in sophisticated network manipulation. Vietnam, Russia, Saudi Arabia. Once it was said that capitalism would bring freedom to China. He has not done it. Then it was that the Internet will undermine China’s party rule. At the moment it looks more like wandering China under capitalism and the power to do so.
Sueddeutsche Zeitung, 25. / 10.26.2014

About 高大伟 David Cowhig

Worked 25 years as a US State Department Foreign Service Officer including ten years at US Embassy Beijing and US Consulate General Chengdu and four years as a China Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Before State I translated Japanese and Chinese scientific and technical books and articles into English freelance for six years. Before that I taught English at Tunghai University in Taiwan for three years. And before that I worked two summers on Norwegian farms, milking cows and feeding chickens.
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