“Where the internet is, so is the glorious dream,” sang the handsomely-dressed choir of censors. “Tell the world the Chinese Dream is uplifting China.”
Those cringe-worthy lines were from the Cyberspace Administration of China’s Internet Spirit anthem, which made its grand online debut a short while ago. The aforementioned governmental body is ‘in control’ of China’s internet policy (read: censoring).
The song, reminiscent of Soviet-era propaganda tunes, likens the “internet power” to “[an] ocean where all loyalties meet,” and boldly states that the censors are “devoted to turning the global village into the most beautiful scene.”
Having used the “internet” in the People’s Republic, I was very much enraged when I first listened to the song. How is anyone going to tell the world how brilliant the “great proletarian democratic socialist utopia” is when all the popular social media platforms are blocked?
Rather ironically, Internet Spirit itself was censored shortly after its release, as it had gained a lot of attention, and mockery, from Chinese netizens.
It was not, however, the only popular video that was censored that month. Under the Dome, a documentary produced by renowned Chinese journalist Chai Jing on the country’s pollution woes, was also silenced within a week of its release.
A filtered internet gives the outside world the impression that China is a backwards, repressive state. It doesn’t even accomplish its intended goal: to stop netizens from viewing information that may prove to be harmful to the political elite. Anyone who wishes to bypass the filter appears to be able to do so with little difficulty.
Of course, internet censorship is intertwined with other socio-political issues in China, which makes it a whole lot more difficult for the government to suddenly allow information to be transmitted freely. Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost policies increased openness and transparency in the Soviet Union. The sudden relaxation of censorship started a chain reaction, which eventually led to the dissolution of the USSR. Though censorship in China is not nearly as bad as it was in the Soviet Union, the Chinese government knows that making such a sudden move would be akin to suicide.
Despite this, a free internet in China is not entirely impossible. The Chinese government has already started to loosen its grip, as it knows that ruthless censorship only encourages more dissent. There is now, to some extent, more leniency to those who criticise the government – signs that they’re slowly opening up.
Xi Jinping’s crackdown on corruption is working and the rot of the Communist Party is slowly being cleared out. They have restarted their pollution-quelling initiatives, too. It may take a while, but once China has its internal problems figured out, we may soon be able to enjoy a free internet on the mainland.