Friday, May 21, 2010

An Endless Battle?

I was able to research in greater depth the question of technological authority. Again, I'm researching the issues specifically in China, but on a basic level looking at the Internet as a weapon for rebellion or another warhead for government power.

After a 10-Month Ban, Western China is Back Online

I've been sifting though a number of articles which toss the issues back and forth. Colleagues Ben and Dr. Burton suggested some very applicable articles which gave my research a bit more insight. No one has an answer, obviously, as these technological advancements are without precedence. No one can tell whether it will prove totalitarianism's downfall or invincibility. I did, however, find an eerie article that leads me to think the Chinese government would destroy the Internet before it could lead to a revolution. Almost a year ago Chinese governments had to suppress an ethnic riot in the Western region of Xinjiang. In punishment, the government banned full use of the Internet for 10 months. Yes, 10 months. Many individuals whose jobs and livelihoods depended on the Internet were forced to move and the government proved its willingness to cut off a region entirely.

This article really helped me gain perspective. China is balancing. They are content with filtering the Internet, monitoring sites, and imprisoning individuals who seem just a tad radical, however if they felt their infrastructure was truly jeopardized, I would not be surprised if they pulled the plug.


  1. Thanks so much for giving me that article info on group-think. It's interesting how the article plays in with your topic. Does social networking promote "rebellion," or conformity? Are Chinese citizens who use the internet to rebel all very individually dedicated to the cause, or are they simply "conforming" to a rebellion movement? I would think it would be the first... ?

    I noticed that the article you posted about China mentioned that the leader who persecutes minorities, Lequan, was dismissed. Even though internet access was denied the Chinese, do you think that Lequan's dismissal was a small victory for internet "rebellion" use? Or am I looking at that in the wrong way?

    Interesting stuff!

  2. It may be worth exploring how the government of Pakistan is doing similar things right now. They have banned the entirety of Facebook and YouTube because of the existence of "blasphemous" content. One story here:

    I think the ability to take such broad censorial actions has some interesting implications. To eliminate all objectionable material they eventually must resort to disallowing any medium that allows for free, open, interactive discourse(which we consider to be the whole point of new media).

  3. Wow! That's so crazy that they would shut down the internet for so long. I do think that it's telling how Lequan was dismissed - that might show that something like this won't happen again, though at the same time now that it has been done it could always be done again. I do think that it's telling too though how eager people were to get back to their email, chatting, gaming, etc. They may have survived for a while without it, but they certainly didn't feel like, once it was back, they could continue to do without.

    I think it's crazy just how cut off from the world you become if you're refused internet access, even for a short amount of time. And censorship of web content can make you think you know the world, when actually there are massive pieces missing. It makes you wonder how things were before the internet.

  4. I'm surprised China's government has lasted so long. How did the poplace react to that cut? How did they get the government to restore the Internet?

    I read another article that says China's tracking text messages from cell phones and prosecuting any anigovernment texts.

    How do they get away with it? Sure, all of the censorship breaks digital organization and protests among the citizens up pretty well, but couldn't they get together in groups and rallies the way they did before internet? It's like the people rely so much on the technology that they can't revert to meeting in person. I'm interested to see how this develops.

  5. James, to answer your questions, the people did not do anything to restore the internet, as far as I understand it. The governemnt seems to think the people learned their lesson after 10 months, and decided to get things back on track.

    The thing about China is the government has insane amounts of power. From childhood, everyone is seeped in propaganda and taught to idealize the Communist party. I've heard children singing songs about equality for everyone--a bowl of rice for all and green fields to play in. The is no freedom of the press, so between government actions escaping attention and pro-communist propaganda everywhere, many people don't find fault with the government. In fact, many people choose the join the Communist party as they mature. In 2009, the Communist party had 76 million members (1 in 12 adult Chinese), and those are just the people who sign up to be part of the actual party. Between that and its absolutely huge army, China has crushed every formal act of rebellion.