China-Style Censorship Going Global

When it comes to internet censorship, is the world becoming more like China?
December 31, 2019 Updated: January 8, 2020
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Commentary

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) hates the free flow of information and the expression of ideas.

China’s leadership knows that their continued existence depends on their ability to stifle individualism, political expression, and human rights—all the ideas and rights that Hongkongers are fighting to hold onto as much as they can.

There’s no way the CCP—or any totalitarian regime—could exist in such an open environment.

Unfortunately, the results of the CCP’s Orwellian state are, as tragic as they are, predictable. According to the 2019 report, “China’s Pursuit of a New World Media Order” issued by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), China is one of the least free nations on the planet, ranking 176 out of 180 countries.

But there’s more to China’s censorship efforts than most are aware.

‘Internet Sovereignty’ Just the Beginning

With its so-called Great Firewall, the CCP controls almost every piece of information in China via its own internet, search engines, chat apps, and other social media. Chinese are denied internet access to the outside world. All that most Chinese people know from the internet, newspapers, television, and radio is what the CCP allows them to see, read, or hear.

Furthermore, with its highly intrusive data decryption laws, AI-powered algorithms, and thousands of teams of content monitors, the CCP also controls—and sees—the vast majority of data that comes into the country from foreign business personnel, academics, and other sources. That’s called “internet sovereignty” by the way, and to Beijing, is just as important as territorial sovereignty.

There are good reasons why, of course. Dictatorial control over a population means controlling and shaping the perceptions of the people, and of course, their thoughts. For that to be successful, there must be only one source of information. That would be the Chinese state, i.e., the CCP. It’s no surprise that China has no rival when it comes to imprisoning journalists and netizens.

But it gets much worse.

China’s ‘Great Cannon’ Kills Foreign Websites

The CCP isn’t just working very hard to block Chinese citizens’ access to information it doesn’t like; it’s also out to stop the rest of the world from seeing it as well. China’s “Great Cannon” is programming code that allows the Chinese regime potential control over foreign websites and even to limit users’ access to data. It was first used in 2015 to target and exploit any unsecured foreign computer that communicates with China. It gives the CCP the opportunity to target and exploit any foreign computer that communicates with any China-based website.

This Great Cannon weaponizes the millions of mainland Chinese internet connections that visit unsecure websites. It downloads and runs the Chinese regime’s malicious JavaScript, which allows them to control traffic to those sites, overwhelm them to the point of shutdown, or even launch cyberattacks against offending or opposition sites. This was the case with Github in 2015 and in Hong Kong in June 2019. What’s more, China routinely injects software on opposition groups beyond its borders to spy on and discredit them.

China’s Big Global Propaganda Spend

In addition to shutting down offensive or threatening websites, Chinese media is making major strides in expanding its presence around the world. Spending $1.3 billion a year to push out its state-run television and radio programming, the CCP wants to tell the world China’s story, in Chinese terms, rewriting history according to CCP-approved narrative. China’s media expansion is considerable, with the China Global Television Network seen in 165 countries and China Radio International heard in 65 languages.

It’s a bold and powerful effort to turn much of the world’s thinking away from American ideas and toward China’s oppressive and successful looking state capitalism, and syncs well with China’s Confucius Institutes on college campuses throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. These institutes are yet another CCP propaganda tool aimed to shape young people’s views of China and undermine the righteous grievances of the Hong Kong protesters, as well as the foundational concepts of Western civilization.

China’s efforts to expand its global presence is a direct threat to the open, liberal democracies of the West:

“What is at stake is not only the Chinese authorities trying to spread their own propaganda … what is at stake is journalism as we know it,” Cédric Alviani, East Asia bureau director of RSF, told TIME Magazine.

It’s disappointing, if not surprising, just how many authoritarian countries such as Russia, Iran, Pakistan, and others are racing to censor internet access and limit the freedoms of their own people. Without question, China is leading the way for dictators of all stripes around the globe to hold onto their illegitimate power.

Even more disappointing and dangerous is how China is influencing global mass media and entertainment companies in an extremely prolific effort to stop criticism and reshape opinions around the world. It appears as if U.S. firms have made kowtowing to Beijing just another business decision. Web and technology giants such as Facebook, Apple, and others willingly comply with Beijing’s censorship demands in exchange for access to China’s market of 1.3 billion people.

What’s more, airlines and publishers are rewriting their maps so as not to offend China. Apparently, Tibet and Taiwan, for example, aren’t real countries after all.

Beijing is showing its hand to the world, and it’s quite a bloody and dirty one. It’s also a much more insidious threat to Western civilization than any weapons system Beijing may deploy against the United States. China, more than most people realize, is well into the process of remaking much of the world in its own image.

The people of Hong Kong are well aware of the danger such a transformation brings, which is why they’re willing to take the risk of standing up to the CCP leadership. They know that their future under Beijing’s thumb is a bleak one.

U.S. companies should take heed.

James Gorrie is a writer and speaker based in Southern California. He is the author of “The China Crisis.”

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.