Issues of freedom and the extent to which a state should control society regularly feature in the West on current affair programs. Australia is called a ‘nanny state’ and the U.S.’s second amendment is blamed for its constant gun violence, yet countries such as China has bans on activities that westerners regard as everyday freedoms.
The totalitarianism of Communist China is still very apparent, even though economically China is more capitalistic than the champion of capitalism itself the USA. Visitors to China are as stunned by the unique things found in China as much as they are by what’s censored in China.
The photo sharing platform Instagram, for instance, is censored in China. Beijing keeps a tight grip on access to the media. Though it is probably more concerned about what its people will learn, than what the world will learn about China. China has 1.4 billion people. The Chinese government believes that the best way to maintain productivity and ruling class ideology is by maintaining control of the knowledge that its people can imbibe and process.
Tourists are baffled when they try to log on to Instagram. The app is censored in China.
Tourists who like their daily Twitter fix will also be disappointed. The page is censored in China. The Chinese government recognizes the economic benefits of opening up to the West, but they don’t want all the cultural and social habits that come with it. They invite a lot of western professionals to work in their country, mainly native English teachers, but would like to keep the Western influence to a minimum. Twitter is a space for anyone to voice their opinion, no matter how sensitive the subject, and it’s a clear reason as to why it’s censored.
Westerners complain that they don’t have access to certain websites. Sites, for example, Tumblr, a favorite among hip teenagers and twenty-somethings. However, westerners visiting China will be dismayed by the restrictions placed on Google services. If you enjoy YouTube, don’t go to China (or get a VPN). Beijing censored thousands of websites that are considered harmful to its people. And Google is the portal of finding all of those strange Internet gems.
Hey, Facebook users! Have you ever wondered why you never get ‘friend requests’ from China when there are 1.4 billion people in China? Or when the ‘people you may know’ pops up, there has never been anyone from China on there. Well, wake up and smell the roses. There’s no Facebook in China (unless you have a VPN). Westerners visiting China will have to inform their FB friends that there won’t be any messages from them until they’re in a Facebook-friendly country. Some analysts trace this ban in China to the riots that broke out in July 2009 between Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. Founder Mark Zuckerberg has visited China many times (he has even shaken hands with President Xi Jinping), but Facebook remains censored.
Likewise, Snapchat users would not exist in China without a VPN. This is a protectionist policy designed to benefit Chinese firms at the expense of western ones. Various domestic apps similar to Snapchat have emerged but are heavily censored by the Chinese government. This includes blocking money transfers from the west around dates that are considered off limits, such as the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, which falls on June 4.
A recent study by Harvard University came up with the figures that as many as 488 million social media posts are fabricated by the Chinese government every year, to distract public attention from sensitive issues. What you definitely won’t find in China is any public recognition of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
Chinese regulators only permit 34 foreign films to be shown in Chinese cinemas every year. Hollywood films that make it into the 34 are heavily censored, and content regarded as offensive or subversive is removed. This policy has been great for the Chinese film industry, though their films are also massively censored. If you expect to see Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal dubbed into Chinese or with Chinese subtitles appearing at the bottom of the Brokeback Mountain screen, you’re going to be disappointed.
The list of what you won’t find in China is monumental. E-books and videos are heavily censored or censored altogether. Casinos publicly don’t exist since gambling was outlawed in 1949, but underground gambling operations are found only if you have those connections…
Take a break from your everyday internet indulgences, and take in the culture of China. When you’re here, you’re here to experience the country, your movies and websites will be waiting for you when you get back home. If you would like to go around the “Great Firewall of China,” you can always download a free VPN on your phone.
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