Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time discussing the different types of information control exhibited by the Communist Party both in class and informally with my peers. These discussions have enlightened me to a side to the Chinese that gives me a hopeful outlook to the future of this country. Though the CCP is still strong in its authoritarian ways, the expanding modernization of the country is putting them in an increasingly difficult position. The Internet by its nature is a difficult thing to control, and even in China it is a place where people can begin to speak their minds behind the safety of the anonymous Internet. The “Great Fire Wall” as it is popularly known, is the CCP’s attempt at information control on the fast growing information sharing medium that the world has ever seen.
To their credit, it is the most sophisticated online censorship tool in the world, and works by finding key words on websites such as “democracy” and “Tiananmen massacre” etc. What people are beginning to do however, is express discontent in more subtle ways than blatant criticism. Artist add critical elements into their work, an example is the Chinese artist Ai WeiWei who has also become a anti government pop culture figure with world wide recognition. Users of the Internet use irony and similar devices to construct critical campaigns against the Party’s actions. An example here is the Grass Mud Horse Internet phenomenon, characterized by a particularly vulgar play on words in the Chinese language. If pronounced correctly, it refers to an animal identical to a Llama, but with a slight variation in the tones used to pronounce the words the meaning changes entirely to f*** your mother. It isn’t just an attempt to be gross, the campaign that follows the slogan is a cleverly crafted push against internet censorship, using a song with several similar play on words to slip past the filter system while still addressing the desire for freedom of speech.
Many of my students are aware of these kinds of things, and think that it’s cool. Contrary to some western stereotypes, the country is not just full of a bunch of complacent Chinese who are okay with their right to express themselves being smothered. One of my friends has a VPN, a software used to mask the region you are accessing the internet from and this allows her to see the internet as we do in America. Another student, when I asked him why Chinese students are becoming more critical, responded by saying “Critical thinking is important, most students are just taught to memorize. But if we can think critically we have more power.”
The educated youth are making their way up, and the old structures are crumbling. It is a natural effect of modernizing, and I find the entire thing a bit ironic. The Communist Party takes long strides to improve the country’s domestic and international economic health, and I think they do a pretty good job of that. However with increased economic well being you get more educated youth, wider access to information, and people who have more time to think and need less time just to work and survive. The CCP seems to be digging their own grave here. I believe that eventually the reigns will be loosened on the people of this country, and the change may be sudden and brutal, however I think it is more likely that the change will come silently and gradually with the changing times.
So here are some unrelated pictures I’ve taken over the last few weeks, it isn’t much because I’ve been quite busy with school and things.
|Temple in The Summer Palace|
|Overlooking the Summer Palace lake|
|Huge, sprawling, Beijing. Make no mistake, the city extends well outside of frame|
and the smog only lets you see no more than 1/4 into the depth of the city.
|The Summer Palace|