How China’s Internet Generation Broke the Silence

In the Guardian, Tania Branigan looks at the ways China’s “Internet generation” uses online media to express themselves and to circumvent government censorship:

While China has the world’s most sophisticated internet censorship system, it also has almost 400 million internet users – at least some of whom are challenging those restraints with increasing boldness. Controls mean that almost everyone self-censors to some degree. But some have used the variations and gaps in the system to stake out spaces where they can find or share viewpoints that are not officially sanctioned.

In fact, the internet is arguably more important than in other countries since the mainstream media is still more firmly controlled. The Chinese have even invented a word – “wangmin” or “netizen” – that captures this sense of the internet as a space for social and political discussion.

It is also a space for enjoyment.

“The internet community is diverse, lively, and contentious, full of fun and dynamism,” said Guobin Yang, author of The Power of the Internet: Citizen Activism in China. “This aspect of Chinese internet culture is not well understood by the general public in the west.

“[The internet culture is] capturing more and more things, good or bad, political or non-political, and then weaving them into all sorts of new creatures – new languages, new relationships, new images … despite and perhaps because of political control.”