Sunday, September 28, 2008

Censorship in China

The first presidential debates are behind us, the VP debates are coming up, and China is still there, and whoever is elected will have to deal with the biggest, fastest growing country in the world - a country with thousands of years of civilization, nuclear weapons, and an autocratic government.

Human Rights in China is based in New York and Hong Kong and a quick glance at their website shows the excellent work that they do to promote democracy in the world's newest superpower. One of their publications is written by a real-life Winston Smith, He Qinglian, an economist and journalist who worked at a major press outlet in China before she fled to the U.S. in 2001 to escape government pressure brought to bear for her writings. Fortunately while she was still working at the Chinese equivalent of the Ministry of Truth she was gathering material for her book The Fog of Censorship (free to download) which I'm still reading.

For those who admire the genius of that (not even American) flag-hugger Rupert Murdoch's media empire, page xv in the introduction should be a wake-up call:

"Nobody is more confident of gaining a slice of this market than Rupert Murdoch who has invested a great deal of money and energy over the years to establish good relations with top Chinese officials, and whose efforts have met with considerable success.His secret is to always steer clear of politics and to show no interest in democracy, freedom, or human rights in China. Even the issue of people's living standards, which the Chinese media do cover, is outside his purview. Consequently, Murdoch has shown studied indifference to liberating the Chinese media."

Qinglian stresses the point (as Ted Koppel's excellent piece did) that it's naive to think that liberty automatically follows market liberalization; that is to say, capitalism does not necessarily equal democracy. She stresses that in fact, freedom of the press and speech have actually decreased markedly in China in this decade of accelerating capitalism, compared to the 1990s. Visit HRIC's website to learn more - unless you're in China, of course, in which case you won't be able to see the website (see China's Golden Shield online by Greg Walton).

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