China has for a long time now been happily blocking content both from its own people and the West, but has the era of censorship run its course?


Dishonesty and politics are often understood to be closely interweaved, underlined by the words of a very well-known politician: ‘The victor will never be asked if he told the truth’. These are in fact the words of Adolf Hitler. Of course, Hitler’s infamy goes well beyond that of a dishonest politician who engages in ‘dirty’ tactics, but the point remains clear. Politicians often use dishonesty to gain power and, as long as they maintain power, this can be concealed.

As a result of this need for secrecy in politics, it is fair to assume that most governments exercise censorship to some extent, though naturally, this would be difficult to prove. It remains however to be something that is more vigorously implemented in certain countries and seems to be most prevalent amongst extremist forms of government, as a way of exercising and maintaining power. Since the USSR established a communist regime in the early twentieth century and became the first world power to do so, censorship has been considered vital to the functioning of a communist regime. The fact that there remain large aspects of Stalin’s rule which are not fully known, such as statistics on the number of people he killed, shows just how extensive the censorship was. Consequently, censorship is now a widely acknowledged tactic for gaining and maintaining power.

Censorship still remains prominent in communist societies today, such as those of China and North Korea. The censorship in China is intensive, with more than twelve bodies involved in the control of information. There are also limitations on foreign media, with foreign correspondents having to obtain permission to report from China. Moreover, well-known US social media companies which have international influence, such as Twitter and Facebook, are banned and searches on Google are censored.

Such restrictions clearly show that government censorship is highly influential in Chinese society. This was highlighted recently when Caixin, a popular Chinese financial magazine, spoke out about censorship of some of its English language content. In an article, it stated that an interview on the subject of free speech had been deleted from its website on March 5, 2016. This defiance led to the deletion of the accusatory article too, once again confirming the nature of Chinese censorship.

The article was clearly viewed as a threat by the Chinese government but in this case, the censorship damaged their reputation, rather than protecting it. The original article that was deleted involved an interview with Jiang Hong, a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. It reported that he had suggested that advisors should be free to give their opinions to the Communist Party’s leaders. The deletion of the article was justified by claims that its content was illegal. This provoked a response from Caixin that criticized government censorship and denounced the Cyberspace Administration of China as ‘a government censorship organ’. This article was then also deleted.

Deletion however did not remove the problem for the Chinese government, the damage had already been done. Criticism of Chinese censorship has now been reported by Chinese media as well as media organisations around the world. This incident is indicative of a lack of full control in China, revealing censorship to be detrimental to the government rather than a foolproof tool. By speaking out, Caixin briefly gained victory over the oppressive regime by condemning its violation of free speech.

Caixin’s actions have also been praised by Western media. The modern West’s support of free speech place it in opposition to censorship and in favour of those who attempt to liberate themselves from such restrictions. Caixin’s move has been depicted as a bold act of ‘courage’. Who knows, maybe the support will help embolden the Chinese media and lead to the government losing some of its influence over the press.