Sunday, 7 September 2008

Is censorship such a bad thing?

A post will follow later, in more detail, about my recent adventures around Fudan University, but for now, a quick word on a book that someone mentioned to me.

Judy Polumbaum's China Ink is a collection of first hand interviews with people associated with the Chinese press and (apparently, I'm still waiting for a copy to reach me in China) it focuses on issues such as commercialism running the show with regards to censorship of the press. This is a pretty big issue now, although it tends to get downplayed in the Western press, most articles focus on the all-seeing, all-controlling power of the CCP when it comes to regulating the media, but not so much on the commercial implications – which, dare I say, resemble the West in more ways than we give credit for.

The whole issue of state control is one that people in the West love to cite as a reason to distrust China. But, as is usually the case, this argument often comes from the mouth of someone who has only read a few stories (Western press stories) about the issue and doesn't fully understand it. In reality, it is far, far more complex than a single entity that sees and regulates all, it's vague, incomprehensive, and, in many cases, just ineffective.

The whole introduction of advertising and commercial enterprises running news outlets now has a lot more play on what content can and cannot be printed. (A vulgar allusion to Rupert Murdoch could be quite easily used in this spot).

Anyway, the book draws conclusions, stating that it is the Chinese themselves: the journalists, the consumers, and the member sof government, who will be the changing force in media liberalisation – not international pressure groups such as Amnesty, or Reporters Without Borders.

And, just to wrap it up with a nice self-promoting tinge, this was pretty much what my dissertation at the University of Edinburgh was about. It was really good. Really. (As soon as I learn how to use this blogging thing I'll see if I can upload files to it, not sure if it supports that though.)

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