China’s Holistic Censorship Regime

While the government’s surprising openness to the media over the Sichuan earthquake is being noted in the foreign press, an unidentified author in the Far Eastern Economic Review writes about a well-entrenched regime that may not be so easily uprooted:

The events in Tibet have brought into high relief the form of public theater that can only loosely be termed censorship, for China is the one major country in the world for which censorship is not merely, or even principally, a matter of suppressing undesired messages. Instead, Beijing has created a fact-value fusion: There are no facts that exist independently of their significance in the social contract.

Thus, residence in China is not unlike working at a strongly cultured company, e.g., a Disney or Starbucks. Residents agree to support the “brand values” defined for China by the CCP. They are rewarded for doing so, penalized for abstaining from the general effort and punished severely for actively taking a contrary stance.

In demanding this sort of fealty from its residents, China insists that both individuals and organizations conflate their social, economic and political roles, creating significant inefficiencies and distortions for businesses. Meanwhile, the mingling of positive official messages, suppression of alternative narratives and amplification of approved reactions make it almost impossible to understand what the average Chinese person might “really” think.

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