The Great Firewall of China William FReedman

Censorship, specifically the censorship of the internet, is a major issue in modern China. Currently, lots of information on the internet isn’t available to the people because the government blocks it (FORSYTHE, 1). China has repeatedly censored anything that could dislodge its power, including but not limited to the United States presidential inauguration (Eades, 1). This is because in a government like China’s, ideas of democracy aren’t spread because of fear that the people will want a more democratized government (Eades, 1). “It wasn't supposed to work. But China's Great Firewall -- a massive Internet surveillance and content control system -- has, in many respects, been an unparalleled success,”(Lu Stout, 1). The Chinese government has had great success in censoring the internet, they have blocked almost all websites that share information that they don’t want spread. Censoring the internet was described by President Clinton as “Nailing Jell-O to a wall (Lu Stout, 1)” but the government has, and continues to, censor all unwanted information from Chinese internet servers(Lu Stout, 1). Even though the government has had great success, they still continue to expand their censorship program, appointing a new leader to head the program (FORSYTHE, 1). This shows how important control of the internet is to the Chinese government, because if you can control the information that people receive, you can control their perception.

This is a remnant of Legalism because it shows a strong, authoritarian government controlling the people (Han Fei, 72). In Legalism the core principle is that the government should be strong and control the people (Han Fei, 71) and this is just what the Chinese government is doing by restricting the flow of information. For instance, if one searches in America the Tiananmen Square protests and subsequent massacre, or any place where Google isn’t censored, you would see the famous picture of a student standing in front of a tank, however in China, photos of Tiananmen square show up as it is on a normal day, without any of the iconic photos from the protests (Sullivan, 1). This is because China, like the ideal government of Han Fei, controls the people (Han Fei, 72). Han Fei says in his writings that “If he [the leader] employs such measures as will keep them from doing evil, then the entire state can be brought to a uniform standard,” (Han Fei, 71). The Chinese government takes to heart the quote “such measures as will keep them from doing evil” (Han Fei, 71), because they limit access to information to stop people from performing any anti government activities. If you don’t know about the atrocities committed by the government because the information wasn’t available to you, you have no reason to challenge the government.

While the idea of censorship fits in very well with the ideals of Legalism, it is the antithesis of Confucian values. In the Analects Confucius says “Thinking without learning is dangerous," (Confucius, 2:15). If you think logically without the information, you could come to the wrong conclusion, and this is exactly what happens in China. People make logical assumptions based on incomplete information because the information isn’t available to them. Confucius believed the only way to have a better society is to educate people but this isn’t a reality in China today with so much information being censored.

One thing that I wondered while researching this project was, “Why is this censorship accepted by the Chinese people?” I kept thinking throughout my reading that if anything like this happened in America, there would be endless protests and lawsuits because we take the idea of free speech for granted. We are granted the right of free press, the First Amendment stating “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances,”(US Constitution, Amendment 1). However, in China, no such rights are granted so people have no expectation of these rights. The idea of a free internet isn’t something that has ever been a reality for the Chinese people, so there is no expectation of it. This is important to know as modern Americans because we often take the right to free uncensored information for granted. In America, the government doesn’t interfere in the internet, it lets it be. We never think about whether a website will be blocked when we try to enter it, because we have never been presented with a blocked website, but in China there is no guarantee that any information hasn’t been censored by the government.


China takes censorship to sophisticated new level, December 1, 2016.

Eades, Mark C. “China Tightens Censorship As Trump Takes Office.” foreign policy association, January 26, 2017. Accessed February 2, 2017.

Forsythe, Michael. “China Clamps Down on Online News Reporting.” New York Times (New York, NY), July 25, 2016. Accessed February 2, 2017.

Madison, James. “The Bill of Rights: A Transcription.” 1791. In National Archives. US government, n.d. Accessed February 8, 2017.

———United States Constitution. Philadelphia, USA, 1788.

I used this scource to learn about the rights of free press given to Americans. I trust this source because it is the document that founded the government and the document was created at the time of the Founding Fathers.

Stout, Kristie Lou. “China’s Great Firewall: Fortune at the expense of freedom?” CNN (Atlanta, GA), March 25, 2015. Accessed February 2, 2017.

Sullivan, Danny. “Google Just Says No To China: Ending Censorship, Due To Gmail Attack.” Search Engine Land. Last modified January 12, 2010. Accessed February 7, 2017.

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