"Of course not. How could he die? Next question."
In a grouping of posts centered around China's Personal Ministry of Truth, I have recorded my findings and thoughts in comparing China's digital age to the dark world created by Orwell in his novel 1984. Thoughtcrime on the Internet deals primarily with the Chinese government's uncanny ability to censor, restrict, ban, and monitor online activity. Even a whiff of dissidence to the government or party leaders will cause a reaction from authorities. From blocking an unsatisfactory blog to threats, harassment, abductions, and terms in prison, China maintains maintains totalitarian control both on and off-line. This uncompromising hold on information can hardly escape comparison to thoughtcrime, thought criminals, and the Thought Police of Orwell's novel. Individual thought in China is becoming more contraband every day.
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH discusses China's talent of not only restricting and monitoring Internet usage, but to infuse it with thickly spread propaganda. Gearing up paid officials to enter the digital world and, as "normal" citizens, praise the government actions and policies to high heavens, China has ensured that their blogosphere, as well as physical sphere, remain safely red.
My Thoughts on China's Status
As I began researching the connections between China and 1984, I honestly thought I would find the Internet to be a source of liberating avenues; I had assumed that digital revolutions and online worlds could escape the restrictions placed on the physical body of China and lead to freedoms long unrealized. The Internet can be so secretive, so ambiguous, naturally I thought it's role would distance China from 1984's world of constant surveillance and fear, giving its citizens the escape needed to organize and potentially instigate change. Surely China can't go on forever in this state--the people will escalate and rebel at some point. I thought perhaps the Internet would be the tool to facilitate change. Well, nothing pops your bubble like thorough research.
The Internet: Use It and Lose It
As my previous posts have already established, China hasn't missed a step as the government straddles both the physical and virtual worlds. Another sphere is under communist control; the Internet has become an marionette, it seems, which obediently bends to the official hands tugging at its strings. The Internet is saturated with cyber-police, which easily bring punishment in the physical sense to those "crimes" committed on a virtual level. There is no safety, no anonymity online. There is no chance for change without the quick backlash from government power.
The government is quick to shut down anything that poses a threat. While many blogs and sites are scrutinized against government policies, the real danger comes when online gatherings pour into the physical world. China fears opposition, China fears masses of people united and gathered. Any hint of a riot throws China into a frenzy. These threats may usually be stopped, however, before the fear actually materializes. As mentioned in Virtual Memory Suppressed, China wasted no time in shutting down a virtual gathering to commemorate the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre.
A few individuals traveled to Tiananmen Square only to report on their Foursquare account their location and time. A few more followed, and a few more. There was no physical gathering to attract attention, just mute participation before leaving the cite just as quickly. Even a gathering of such minute proportions did not sit well with the government who, after catching on to the virtual gathering underway, blocked the site before the end of the day.
This instance only involved the blocking of one site; other behavior leads the government to block the Internet entirely. Returning again to those sentiments expressed in An Endless Battle?, the Chinese government banned the Internet for a span of 10-months following a riot in a Western province. The riot, which began as a protest against the government to investigate earlier conflicts between the different racial groups in China's Western provinces, culminated in the death of 156 people, with many others wounded. The government blamed an ethnic group for orchestrating the protest, via Internet, and as punishment banned the Internet for a span of 10-months.
This instance, more than any other, help demonstrate the extreme power the government holds over the Internet. Right now, it still proves a veritable tool which lends itself to government surveillance and exploitation. If the day arrives, however, that online dissidents gain too much power or pose a real threat to China's governing party, the Internet may just as easily disappear. Almost like a parent could simply remove the toy that causes too much noise or distraction or breaks some household lamp, China has the power to preserve itself at cost of unplugging entirely.
My Summation of Thought
1984 has arrived because of, not in spite of, the digital age. In power now is a government which can tap into nearly every method of life. The Internet is controlled, limited, monitored. In a delicate balance of risks and advantages, the government will exploit it and abuse it so long as it serves a purpose. There is little chance for rebellion without detection, little space to voice independent thought, and little hope to change. It seems the China has played its cards well. Thank you for your insight, Mr. Orwell.