Chinese Censorship Reaching Beyond China

An essay by Emily Parker in The New York Times discusses the problem of Chinese censorship–not in China but in the rest of the world. Increasingly China is using its international clout to pressure other groups, leading to self-censorship by many authors who are afraid of offending the Chinese government:

As China’s influence spreads throughout the world, so does a willingness to play by its rules. In March, Google shut down its Internet search service in mainland China, saying it no longer wanted to self-censor its search results to comply with “local” law. But these laws may not be local anymore. Interviews with a number of writers and China watchers suggest that Chinese censorship is becoming an increasingly borderless phenomenon.

“I remember clearly the days when you could safely assume that as long as you wrote something abroad, it was free and clear from repercussions within China,” said Orville Schell, the director of Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations (where I am a fellow) and author of nine books on China. One turning point, he said, was the growth of the Internet, which increasingly unites the once “discrete worlds” of Chinese and Western reading material. Another factor is the growing business entanglement between China and the rest of the world.

“Suddenly we’re all Hong Kong, where no one wants to offend the mainland because it’s too close,” Schell said.

Last fall, in advance of the Frankfurt Book Fair, China pressured organizers to disinvite two dissident writers to a symposium on “China and the World.” (They were reinvited after a public outcry.) But more often, potential critics silence themselves pre-emptively. In a 2002 essay in The New York Review of Books called “China: The Anaconda in the Chandelier,” the China scholar Perry Link described Beijing’s censors as a dangerous creature coiled overhead. “Normally the great snake doesn’t move,” he wrote. “It doesn’t have to. . . . Its constant silent message is ‘You yourself decide,’ after which, more often than not, everyone in its shadow makes his or her large and small adjustments.”

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  1. 1
    Brett Robinson says:

    RT @RonChusid: Chinese Censorship Reaching Beyond China #p2

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