It’s quite a feat for one of the largest countries in the world to maintain a solid stand on internet censorship. Dating back to the early stages of cyber usage, China’s government has steadily monitored and restricted content for the safety of its citizens and the country’s best interest. As the world inevitably progressed on to the daily usage of social media platforms, popular applications such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google, have not been given the same optimized reign that they would otherwise possess in other countries. In fact, these are just some of the prevailing websites that have been blocked in mainland China. With censorship as a limitation, how has China’s netizen culture evolved and what makes it differ from that of more liberal countries?
There were some indicators that disclose the effect of this immediate constraint. Compared to the average US citizen, Chinese citizens were more inclined to use the net for entertainment and gaming purposes. Their US counterparts, on the other hand, leaned towards productivity and materialistic sites, with the top internet companies being Google, Amazon, and eBay. So how was this affected by China’s censorship culture?
On Chinese question-and-answer sites, netizens are encouraged to share their opinions and open discussions on different topics including political subjects. Despite the censorship and manipulation of online content, the Chinese have become accustomed to the “One China” mentality and have a strong sense of nationalism when it comes to their government. Some would brag of their patriotism, but it has affected even the behavior of Chinese netizens. In fact, it was because of a netizen’s patriotism that light was shed on a certain controversial subject, the denial of the Rape of Nanking. A video was uploaded on Weibo where a Japanese history book had deemed the tragic experience as an imagined product of China’s propaganda, which definitely sparked heated conversations amongst Chinese netizens. Another prime example was the election period of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Regardless of the fact that China is a communist country that prohibits the people from electing their leaders, they remained quite immersed in the affair as a whole. Apart from his accusations and talk of how they “steal American jobs”, he had a huge fan base amongst the Chinese. Whenever an anti-Chinese comment was made, it was odd to see that they still welcomed him with open arms. Many among the Chinese argue that his behavior during the presidential election was actually a well-thought strategy of his, and they admired his thinking in that regard. The Chinese appreciate the type of rule that Trump represents, authoritarian, because it so closely resembles the government that they are used to.
Another reason why they admire Trump is because of his controversial statements on matters that involve the LGBT community, and racism of various ethnic groups. Despite having internet censorship, the Chinese can express themselves as freely online as they feel like. They share his mentality when it comes to issues such as these because they aren’t as sensitive with their words as other country’s citizens usually are. And because homosexuality is still frowned upon in many parts in China, they understand when he speaks out against them. It is because they share the same ideals when it comes to “political correctness”. Arguably, it may come from the government’s censorship, as they have not been exposed to the many different things the world has to show, and they remain closed off within their own country.
China’s media censorship culture has molded the behavior of the Chinese in such a way that despite the restrictions that come with censorship, they continue to unabashedly discuss and relay their opinions on subjects that are of interest to them.