Censorship in China
The Chinese government has been oppressive for decades, ever since Mao Zedong and his communist party won the civil war. However, now in the modern era, after Xi Jingping’s takeover, a new wave of strict censorship and control flooded the country.
Currently, China ranks 177 out of 180 in the 2020 World Press Freedom index. The description goes as follows:
„By relying on the extensive use of new technology, President Xi Jinping has succeeded in imposing a social model in China based on control of news and information and online surveillance of its citizens. At the same time, he has been trying to export this oppressive model by promoting a “new world media order” under China’s influence. China’s state and privately-owned media are now under the Communist Party’s close control while foreign reporters trying to work in China are encountering more and more obstacles in the field. More than 100 journalists and bloggers are currently detained in conditions that pose a threat to their lives. Liu Xiaobo, a Nobel peace laureate and winner of the RSF Press Freedom Prize, and Yang Tongyan, a dissident blogger, both died in 2017 from cancers that were left untreated while they were detained. Under tougher Internet regulations, members of the public can now be jailed for the comments they leave on news items posted on social media or messaging services, or even just for sharing content.“
Furthermore, a citizen journalist called Li Zehua disappeared for two months after revealing that the hospitals in Wuhan were ill-equipped, among other things. As the article of the Guardian explains:
„In his videos, he reported on a local neighbourhood committee’s efforts to cover up new infections and interviewed sick residents. He visited a crematorium where a worker said people were being paid more to transport bodies.“
Before his disappearence Li Zehua said: “I don’t want to remain silent, or shut my eyes and ears. It’s not that I can’t have a nice life, with a wife and kids. I can. I’m doing this because I hope more young people can, like me, stand up.”
Then, after he re-appeared, his tone changed considerably. He praised the procedure of the police and didn’t seem to be a critic of the crisis management anymore.
That’s not the first time that a citizen journalist disappeared, as the Guardian elaborates:
„Li, who had worked for the state-broadcaster CCTV, travelled to Wuhan to report on the crisis after another citizen journalist and activist Chen Qiushi disappeared.“
The censorship was already bad in China before the crisis, but it may become worse after the crisis. Not just nationally, also internationally they will try to influence western news outlets. A worrying development which must be fiercely opposed.
Attempt to Influence Foreign Countries
Chinese officials didn’t stop in their own country. As the German newspaper
Die Welt reported, in an article from Hong Kong Free Press:
„Senior officials and staff at German government ministries were invited “to speak in positive terms about China’s management of the coronavirus,” Die Welt said, citing a confidential foreign ministry document.“
And, it goes on:
„However a German intelligence source told Die Welt that “Chinese officials are pursuing an intensified information and propaganda policy with regard to the coronavirus”.
Beijing has sought to counter the narrative that the outbreak began in China and highlighted its assistance to Western countries “in order to present the People’s Republic as a trustworthy partner,” Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution said.„
It is to be expected that the Chinese government continues to push for their narrative and try to cover-up their missteps in the beginning (i.e. silencing doctor Li Wenliang).
As the article of the New York Times explains on the silencing of Dr. Li:
„Even before his death, Dr. Li had become a hero to many Chinese after word of his treatment at the hands of the authorities emerged. In early January, he was called in by both medical officials and the police, and forced to sign a statement denouncing his warning as an unfounded and illegal rumor.
Word of his death unleashed an even greater upsurge of emotion.
“We will not forget the doctor who spoke up about an illness that was called rumor,” one commenter posted in reply to the hospital’s announcement. “What else can we do? The only thing is not to forget.”„
As previously mentioned, that wasn’t the last time Beijing censors investigative journalists and news outlets which criticized the downplaying of the virus in its early stages:
„In recent days, China stepped up censorship after a rush of online criticism and investigative reports by emboldened Chinese journalists exposed missteps by officials who underestimated and underplayed the threat of the coronavirus.„
It’s important to keep the Chinese government accountable for their misstakes, and they should be intensively criticized for their censorship inside and outside of China. Their attempt of spreading misinformation and false accusations must be countered.
Independence from China
Since China won’t change their course for the time being, it is of great importance for western countries – as well as others – to move their productions out of China and, with the help of automation, may create new jobs in their own or neighbouring nations. There’s no reason to stay in China, and with the change to automation and turning the back to China, it is also a start to produce goods more ethically and combat child labour in all forms.
However, we shouldn’t stop there. People working in the service industry (e.g. delivering packages, cleaners) also need to be appreciated more and treated fairly. A re-assesment of the economy and how it works will be essential for the future.
Lastly, it also includes the betterment of people working in the healthcare industry – from hospitals to nursing homes, and everything inbetween.
If China follows this path, and stops to act in self-interest – what other nations like the US should also do -, then there’s a reason to sit with them on the negotiation table again.