By Caroline Hershey
The Internet has become inextricably linked to the human experience. Global Justin Bieber fandom, an obsession with screaming goats and children bouncing up and down singing in Korean, can all be attributed to our obsession with living online.
Social media has toppled governments, expanded education, reshaped our concept of identity and provided a tool for change.
So why is it that the 1.3 billion citizens of China, the world’s most populous country, are denied full access to the Internet, information and their membership to the international cyber arena? Is censorship truly fundamental to the governance of China as the Chinese Communist Party insists?
China’s pre-modern past is stifling its social and economic development.
Last month, Zeng Li, a little known “content examiner” at Southern China died three days after his retirement. Before his death, he wrote a letter to his colleagues admitting his mistakes, which included deleting content that should have been published. He explained he could not betray his conscience, stating, “I don’t want to be a sinner against history.”
But why is it that Li and countless other devices within the CCP must “sin against history?” Why deny the Chinese the right to freely express themselves on blogs, or connect with their friends abroad? Quite simply, the CCP’s highly centralized, highly authoritarian approach to governance relies upon its legitimacy.
Popular support is critical when governing a country of 1.3 billion and the Internet is seen as a threat—an avenue for voices of political dissent and the rebellion of one billion Chinese people.
The future of censorship in China is a hazy one. With sentiments like those of Li surfacing, China might be approaching the cusp of reform.
However, what the Chinese people demand will ultimately decide the future of censorship in China.
As of now the Internet demands of the Chinese are largely satisfied by Weibo, Youku and other Chinese proxy sites. But this could soon change as the country globalizes further, and the demands of the 1.3 billion Chinese to connect with the world online will be hard for the government to ignore.