“Censorship Breeds Prejudice in the Long Run”
In a joint interview with Isaac Stone Fish and David Wertime at Foreign Policy, Chinese publisher Bao Pu and writers Guo Xiaolu and Hao Qun (who goes by the pen name Murong Xuecun) shared their views on the negative effects of censorship on society:
FP: What does the world lose because of this censorship?
BP: Censorship, if you tolerate it, becomes a breeding ground for prejudice and ignorance. The average mainland Chinese perception of the United States, Japan, and the West is different from the rest of the world. And that’s actually a direct result of censorship.
MX: Look at the TV shows about the War Against Japanese Aggression [a common Chinese name for World War 2]. Because of strict censorship in television, there’s so many of these shows. And they have influence. If you look at websites popular with young people, like [nationalist military fanboy forum] Tiexue, you will see so much about ‘kill all the Japanese,’ ‘exterminate Japanese dogs!’ ‘If there’s a war between China and Japan, let’s have a contest to see who can first kill 10,000 Japanese!’
FP: Some people who disagree will say — well, we have the Internet, we can jump over the great firewall of censorship, and people have access to all this information. But people in China are just not interested in learning about other literature, other countries.
GX: Yes, but all this interest is artificial.
BP: It’s true that relatively few people actually bypass censored information on the Internet. But why? Censorship in the long run breeds prejudice. Once you have this prejudice, you think you know everything, but you don’t. That’s why they’re not actively seeking — because they think there’s nothing out there. It’s a vicious cycle.
MX: I think many people don’t know what they don’t know. [Source]
China is currently in the process of finalizing a new internet security law that will strengthen online censorship and further tighten information control within the country. At the same time, there has been a rise in pre-publication censorship by new media platforms in China, which has helped promote the practice of self-censorship among users. CNN’s James Griffiths recently reported fears that China might eventually perfect its Great Firewall and create a censorship system that is impervious to circumvention tools; others like Google’s Eric Schmidt or World Wide Web creator Tim Berners-Lee, on the other hand, have predicted that mass censorship will become either technically infeasible or economically unviable.
Also see an in-depth profile by McClatchy’s Stuart Leavenworth of Bao Pu and his father Bao Tong, the former policy secretary under Zhao Ziyang, which highlights their fight for free speech in China.