According to a recent report, Chinese netizens are twice as likely to use chat and three times more likely to micro-blog, blog and use video conference than American users. The Netpop Research study shows that mainland Chinese citizens are “more likely to share information broadly and openly.” This comes as a surprise as the country’s censorship has been such a topic of contention. Nevertheless, the study estimates that up to 92% of Chinese netizens use social media, meanwhile, only 76% of US netizens do the same.
Although their actions have been widely criticized in the West, large companies like Google and Yahoo adhere to the Chinese government’s content censorship demands simply to meet this huge Asian market. The country has an online population of 304 million people and is expected to reach 500 million in 2015. Some service challenges to the People’s Republic of China include the requirement of all computers to come equipped with Green Dam censoring software and a list of words and phrases banned from use.
If you’re going to speak about Taiwan as independent country, or the Falun Dafa and religious freedom, or even the subject of democracy, your comments and site are going to get banned. For instance, Twitter and Facebook were blocked in China after a demonstration for religious freedom led by a group of 1000 Uighur Muslims turned ugly. As users began micro-blogging the event that reportedly left at least 140 dead, the government intervened and service was suspended.
While China’s constitution guarantees freedom of speech, the government employs a “subversion of state power” clause to punish those who are critical of it. Most notably this clause has been used against religious protestors like the Uighur; however, in this case the mentality of blocking dissenters can also be carried over to major social networking sites like Twitter, Flickr, Facebook and Bing. Nevertheless, censorship in China is not new and it certainly isn’t only a product of the Communist government.
In the 1200’s Chinese painters used symbols of plants and animals to express their distaste for the government. For instance, the water lily came to symbolize pureness of heart because even in the murky waters of their foreign oppressors, the Chinese people would thrive and survive. If the Chinese really are “more likely to share information broadly”, is it possible that under all this effort to stifle them, there are still water lilies in our midst?
Photo Credit: Max Smith, A Chinese Type 95 SPAAG vehicle on display at the “Our troops towards the sky” exhibition at the Beijing Military Museum