In my project, I will be addressing three main problems with internet censorship in China: Why does China restrict internet access for its citizens? How does this affect society as a whole? How would the 3 ancient Chinese belief systems view this restriction and from this, how is the legacy of ancient China present today?
A snapshot of workers inside the Chinese internet bureau. These are the people responsible for holding up the great Chinese firewall, which is responsible for keeping the Chinese internet secure and to block people from using websites and seeing things the Chinese communist government doesn't want them to. It is the main tool for internet censorship in China.
Why does the Chinese government censor the internet for its citizens?
Recently, China introduced a 14-month campaign to crack down on unauthorized servers in China and to arrest users who try to crack the "Great Firewall of China." The Chinese communist government does not want their citizens to see any bad information or incriminating information about them so they can easily stay in power and crush any revolts. Information is power, and if enough people begin to read the uncensored news and see what freedoms people in other parts of the world have, they might get fed up and attempt a government overthrow. The Chinese communist government has been doing everything it can to keep itself powerful, and the easiest thing to do is to keep its citizens ignorant. If their citizens find out that life in other parts of the world is better than life in China, it will be the downfall of the Chinese empire.
What gets censored on the Chinese internet?
Punishment for violating the rules of the internet can lead to Jail time, account deletion, fines, deletion of posts and comments or police detention and questioning. Any post that could possibly get people to go out and protest something will be censored even if it doesn't criticize the government. The more popular you are on the internet, the more closely the government will watch you. Directly criticizing the government will lead to your post being censored and police intervention.
Using this flowchart, a user can determine whether a post, picture, article, etc. can get censored on the Chinese internet and get them in trouble.
What is this "Great Firewall?"
The "Great Firewall" of China is not a real wall. It is instead an internet block which is capable of blocking citizens on a Chinese network from accessing certain websites and information. By using this, the Chinese government can basically pick and choose what they want the Chinese people to see and what they don't. In the Chinese Internet Bureau, there are tons of government employees working around the clock to make sure that there are no unauthorized server accesses and that people are not viewing restricted sites.
What effect does this have on society?
This internet ban in China can actually have a huge global economic impact. In April of 2016, the U.S. Government and Trade Bureau classified as a barrier to trade. They said this because 8 of the 25 most visited and used website in the world were blocked there. In fact, the American Center of Commerce in China said that 4 out of 5 of its member companies report a negative impact on their business from Chinese internet censorship. China can control ALL online business inside their own country and because they are such a huge economic power, they could stop a lot of online business if they don't like it, making them even more powerful. Amazon, eBay and even PayPal have been blocked multiple times in China. China could use this leverage to promote buying domestic Chinese products instead of importing products from other countries.
While this all sounds great for China, many young Chinese businessmen and entrepreneurs say that this internet ban has hurt China more economically than it has helped them. China's economy is slowly declining and people are saying that this internet ban is stopping economic growth, not helping it. Slowing trade with foreign countries is hurting China, and one way to speed it up is to lift the internet ban.
Chinese government officials say that this internet ban is helping them, but China's economy is on the decline. Could it be time to shake things up and lift the ban to save the economy?
It's 2017, and social media is the mainstream way to communicate. However, popular social media/communication sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Gmail, and Youtube among others, are being blocked in China to try and slow communication with people who may be against the Chinese government. This means that Chinese citizens cannot communicate with people outside the country using social media and many people wanting to share ideas with the world cannot get them outside of China. This is a huge problem, as approximately 700 million internet users are on a Chinese server. That is about 25% of the worldwide internet population. If 25% of the people on the internet are being censored, they may not be able to interact with the other 75%, which leaves everyone at a disadvantage because we cannot share ideas and communicate with each other and the world is not fully connected.
Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Gmail, and Youtube are blocked in China.
Why is nobody in China angry about this ban?
Many people in China are in fact very angry with this internet ban. “If it was legal to protest and throw rotten eggs on the street, I’d definitely be up for that,” Ms. Jing, a Chinese citizen, said. Ms. Jing is angry because she is not able to communicate with distant family members and friends using social media because of the internet ban. There are many more angry people like her who would gladly protest this ban; if they were allowed to. Under the communist Chinese government, protesting is illegal and can lead to imprisonment, fines or even death. In Tiananmen Square in 1989, when peaceful protestors came out to march, they were slaughtered by Chinese soldiers. Hundreds died. The Chinese people now know the risks of protesting to it is very uncommon in China. Chinese citizens could protest this ban, but in doing so, they risk their livelihood, their lives and their families' lives.
A man standing in front of a line of tanks in Tiananmen square, protesting.
What would the 3 major Chinese belief systems say about this?
Confucius and his followers would completely oppose this internet ban. Confucianism is all about sharing ideas and building relationships with other people, which is one of the reasons why the internet was created. Rules are important in Confucianism, but if Guanxi (Relationships) is being sacrificed, there is no point in having rules. If communication between people is stopped then chaos will ensue and the world will become a worse place.
Laozi would agree with a few parts of this internet ban, but would also disagree with a few parts of it. Taoism says that communication between people is not as important as following the Dao. This ban slows that communication down by making it harder for people around the world to interact; The internet is a very complicated and advanced thing and it can distract you from following your life's goal: prospering by following the path of the Dao. Maybe getting slowing down internet usage isn't such a bad thing after all. However, with this ban comes a lot of rules and Laozi and his followers are very opposed to rules. Laozi's way of thinking is to let the people do what they want because if you trust them they will love you.
Han Fei and his followers would completely agree with this ban. Han Fei believed that humanity was evil and that humans would backstab and overthrow you the minute you trusted them. The internet ban was imposed because the Chinese government didn't trust it's citizens to not overthrow them and Han Fei felt the same way. He would also agree with the punishment system for those who broke the internet rules and those who protested them. One of Han Fei's main beliefs was that the strictest rules and punishments should always be put into place.
Finally, how is the legacy of Ancient China present today?
In my opinion, the idea of Legalism is most present today in China, especially relating to the internet ban. In a communist government, all the power is held by one authoritarian party. This was Han Fei's idea of a perfect government (Ancient Kings were monarchs). In addition to that, Han Fei was an extremely distrustful ruler. He believed that human nature was always destined to be evil, and as soon as humans were given any power they would betray you and try to overthrow you. This is why in a communist government, the citizens are given little to no rights. In a communist government, many strict rules and laws are put into place and protesting the authoritarian party will result in serious punishment. Han Fei would have completely agreed.
Because Legalism and Communism have so much in common, I feel like Legalism is the epitome of the legacy of ancient China that can still be seen in the modern world.