China - Media Censorship and Economic Growth
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Melissa Dorman, Kristen Paruginog, Joann Ramos

| Kristen Paruginog |

Censorship is the regulation or suppression writing and speech that are considered harmful to the common good or a threat to national security. The term censorship is typically linked with government efforts to control speech or media content. In the United States, we are fortunate enough to have been given alienable rights brought forth from the founding fathers. The First Amendment to the United States protects freedom of expression but there are exceptions to this guarantee, with some classes of speech enjoying greater protection than others.

Censorship has been prevalent in China for centuries; however it has become more relaxed recently. Since 1949, China has been under communist rule, and they have controlled every aspect of life from popular culture to mass media. During the 1950’s, the government had total control over what information was shown to the people. They used propaganda to glorify the communist party and to depict capitalism and western culture as evil. During that period the Chinese people were effectively cut off from the outside world, and the people only heard exactly what the government wanted them to hear. The decade of 1966 through 1976 was known as the Cultural Revolution in China. The protests of Chinese students and workers against the bureaucrats of the Chinese Communist Party, forced the government to relax their stance on censorship and the economy. Over the past three decades, nearly half of the economy has been privatized, and with it has come more freedom of speech. Today, everything still has to be approved by the government, but they are much more tolerant than ever before.
Censorship has followed the free expression of men and women like a shadow throughout history. In ancient societies such as those of China and Israel to name a few, censorship was considered a legitimate instrument for regulating the moral and political life of the population. In China, the first censorship was introduced in 300 AD. The origin of the word censor in English can be traced to the office of censor established in Rome in 443 BC. The most famous case of censorship stems back to the times of Socrates, sentenced to drink poison in 399 BC for his corruption of youth and his acknowledgment of unorthodox divinities. But it is fair to assume that Socrates was not the first person to be severely punished for violating the moral and political code of his time. Interestingly enough, this ancient view of censorship, as a benevolent public service in the best interest of the people, is still upheld by countries such as China.

For as long as there’s been Internet, China has sought to monitor and control how its citizens use it. China’s population currently stands at 1,324,655,000, so monitoring it’s citizens would certainly be a daunting task for the world’s most populous country.

There are tens of thousands of government monitors and citizens who volunteer their time to censor the citizens of China of banned websites, technology known as “the Great Firewall” blocks websites on an array of sensitive topics, democracy to be more specific. These “regulators” frequently sweep through blogs, chat forums, and even email to ensure nothing challenges the country’s self-styled harmonious society.

Thousands of websites, many of which are porn-related are blocked outright, and destinations such as You-tube, Flickr, and Wikipedia are heavily restricted. While researching about this very interesting and remarkably educational topic, I couldn’t seem to fathom how the people of China are compromising their freedom. As an American, I have the ability to freely search through the World Wide Web and not have to be concerned about government regulation. Our wide list of freedoms allows us to freely express ourselves in a multitude of ways.

The Chinese authorities suppress freedom of expression through various government agencies to include:

  • - The General Administration of Press and Publication is responsible for various administrative activities, including enforcing China’s prior restraint, or censorship, regulations and screening books. The GAPP has the authority to screen, censor, or ban any printed or electronic materials.
  • - The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television controls content of all broadcasts in China, including radio, television, satellite and Internet.
  • - The Ministry for Information Industry regulates the telecommunications and software industries. It also is responsible for the licensing of all internet content providers, anyone providing information to the public via the internet.
  • - The State Council Information Office is the central administrative agency in China, which promotes Chinese media to the world, including China’s policies, business development, and history. In addition, the office restricts who posts news on the internet.
  • The Central Propaganda Department is responsible for monitoring content to ensure that news publishers do not print anything that is not consistent with the Communist Party’s policies.
  • The Ministry of Public Security is responsible for filtering and monitoring the Internet.
  • The General Administration of Customs confiscates any publications that are purchased outside China that may contain harmful information about the government.
  • The State Secrecy Bureau exploits China’s state secret laws and designates certain government, economic and military information as a state secret. The Chinese citizens, however, are responsible for maintaining these secrets and not the government.
  • China’s Judiciary system does not engage in actual censorship but the judges imprison people who violate censorship laws and who express opinions inconsistent with the Communist Party.​
Media and Visual Culture in the People's Republic of China
January 1978
  • Deng Xiaoping assumes power and soon introduces reforms that start China's transition from a planned to a market economy. He is named Time Magazine person of the year in 1978.
January 1979
  • On January 4th, China's first post-Cultural Revolution newspaper advertisement is published in the Tianjin Daily.
  • On April 17th, The first newspaper advertisement appears in the Communist Party organ The People's Daily, for industrial machinery.
February 1982
  • The State Council officially announces 'Advertisement Management Temporary Regulations'. These rules show central government support for developing the advertising industry, but as 'regulations', they do not have the force of 'laws'.
September 1983
  • China's TV industry begins to reform with the introduction of the 'Four Level Administrative Guidelines' in order to develop radio and TV broadcasting at four levels (central, provincial, prefecture and county). This is the first step in China's decentralization of media authority.
October 1988
  • The movie Guafu Cun (Village of Widows) hits the cinema screens, and is called the first domestic film 'not suitable for children'. This drives crowds to theatres, but the most they see is bare midriffs and sexual tension.
  • China's first 'city newspaper', reporting local matters relatively free of central government interference, is published on January 1st: Sichuan Daily publishers launch Huaxi Dushi Bao, distributed in Chengdu, the most developed city in Sichuan Province. Similar city newspapers follow in other cities, developing a new circle of journalists who get used to reporting stories they have researched personally, rather than copied from Party directives.
  • Internet connections become widely available to the public; the service is administered by the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications. Applicants for the service are required to register with their identity card.
  • and, two privately-run Internet companies get funding and open for business. As the dot com boom takes off, the Internet grows as rapidly in China as it does elsewhere: suddenly there is a whole new medium that is not subject to any existing government regulations. Within a few years, ordinary Chinese people have access to all the information available on the Internet, with very few restrictions.
May 1996
  • The country's first Internet café opens in Shanghai.
  • Internet services that allow users to get online anonymously without any kind of registration become widespread. Chinese Internet users rapidly get used to being anonymous online. The dot com bubble bursts, but the massive increase in both Internet accessibility and Chinese online content cannot be reversed. However, the government uses increasingly sophisticated technologies to block and filter certain foreign websites, and starts regulating Chinese websites more strictly as Internet use grows.
May 2007
  • A Shanghainese man sues his Internet connection provider China Telecom because his U.S. hosted website was blocked, and China Telecom will not or cannot explain to him why. He does not win the case in court, but his website is unblocked.
March 24, 2009
  • Access to YouTube, the video-sharing site owned by Google, is blocked by the Chinese authorities after a video of Chinese police officers beating Tibetan protesters appears on it. The block is lifted four days later.
June 19, 2009
  • Chinese authorities disable some search functions on, reasoning that it links to pornographic and offensive content. Gmail is inaccessible for more than an hour.
July 2009
  • Google China's share of the internet search market rises above 30% for the first time in the first quarter of 2009, but is still second to Baidu, which retains around 60% of the home market.
January 12, 2010
  • Google announces it has been the victim of a highly sophisticated and targeted cyber attack originating in China, designed to access the e-mail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. It announces a "review" of its business operations in the country, and says it is "no longer willing to continue censoring" its results on It acknowledges this may mean the end of its business in the country.
  • Three weeks after Google's announcement, the company admits it has made zero changes to its Chinese search engine and that discussions with Beijing remain positive.
  • Breaking the company's silence, Eric Schmidt, the chief executive officer of Google, says that something will happen soon in the standoff over internet censorship in China.
  • Li Yizhong, the minister of industry and information technology, says Google would be unfriendly and irresponsible not to comply with China's censorship laws.
  • After two months of talks between the two parties, the Chinese authorities let it be known that Google is likely to close. Sources within Google confirm this.
  • Media reports suggest Google has stopped censoring its Chinese site, with previously banned images such as the Tiananmen Square protests now seen on the site. But the company denies it has ended censorship.
  • In what is seen as an attempt at a compromise, Google shifts its operations from mainland China to Hong-Kong, where the country's censorship rules do not apply. now has a message saying "Welcome to Google Search in China's new home."

Censorship in China, Jiao Guobiao, UCLA International Institute, Spring 2004.

Cultural Revolution, Wikipedia,

Freedom of Expression, Speech and the Press, Congressional Executive Commission on China,

In a First, the Stones Rock China, but Hold the Brown Sugar, Howard French, New York Times,
April 9, 2006.

Media and Internet Censorship, Human Rights Watch, 2004.

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Current State of Media
Melissa Dorman

The current state of media in China is very limited, but slowly growing. China is currently one of the countries with the smallest amount of press freedom ranking 168/175 according to Reporters without Borders. Media is still being tightly controlled by the state, but progress is slowly being made. The use of domestic Internet use has exploded due to the recent commercialization of Chinese media. The government though, still seeks to maintain its power and control over media uses and political outlets in the country. With the dramatic embrace of the Internet and the market, it is safe to say that the future of Chinese journalism lies within the Internet. More than 32 million Internet users in China primarily use the web for news, but the social media craze is slowly becoming more popular with Web sites like Facebook and Twitter gaining Chinese users.

As China becomes more powerful in the global economy, the need for more information is increasing and it is becoming more difficult to maintain power and control. Journalists risk being harassed, prosecuted, or arrested for writing pieces that contain blasphemous words against the country. Citizens must always defend “the security, honor and interests of the motherland” and must never engage in media stories that endanger the country and its citizens by sharing state secrets. Currently, China’s media is going under the process of commercialization which will lead to more competition, diversified content and more investigative or “hard” news reporting by Chinese journalism agencies. Restrictions governing online content are getting harder to control due to the growing media outlets including more than two thousand newspapers, over eight thousand magazines, and approximately 374 television stations within the country. Domestic and international news stories that would generally be censored by the government are slowly slipping through the government information firewalls. Internet will play a major role in Chinese media reform because it has been nearly impossible to fully control the media forums.

China’s Media Come of Age amid State Controls, International Business Times, June 3, 2010.
Media Censorship in China, Corinne Baldwin, Preeti Bhattacharji, Carin Zissis, Council on Foreign Relations, May 27, 2010.

The History of Economic Development in China

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I Joann Ramos I
China’s economy is flourishing today, though its history shows that its economic standing in the world has seen its ups and downs. Chinas previously fluctuating economy throughout time is a reflection of its leaders and government type, as it has undergone numerous transitions. As the oldest civilization recorded, Chinas history can be traced back 3500 years, which was previously governed by dynasties and lead by emperors. After studying the history of China, there has been numerous accounts of dynasties being overthrown and overruled as many nomadic groups are attracted to its appealingly rich economy (Chow, 2007)

The Qing dynasty was the last dynasty to rule China up until the early 19th century, when it’s economy and government control began to diminish. Under the Qing dynasty, Chinas economy suffered dramatically as it faced The First Opium War in 1840 with Britain and lost. A lot of crops were damaged in the war When the Opium Wars was finally over in 1898 and Britain ended a 99 year lease of the New Territories which substantially grew the size of Hong Kong (U.S. Department of State).

As China tried to recover from the economic stress left behind by the war, its population was in the midst of skyrocketing and the respect for the Qing dynasty was weakening. Chinese reformists suggested an “adoption of Western technology to strengthen the dynasty and counter western advances" (U.S. Department of State). The Qing’s dynasties resistance to reform lead to the creation of a group of young officials, military officers and students to create a revolutionary military uprising in 1911 which lead the last Qing monarch to denounce his position. However, in order to stay away from having a civil war, many leaders of the Qing dynasty was allowed to keep positions within the new republic, and Gen Yuan Shikai was chosen as the republics first president.

In 1928, there was an attempt of creating a nationalist government called The Chinese Nationalist Party during the same time the Chinese Communist Party was trying to take control. The people of China were exhausted from generations of war, and conflicting parties, but by 1945 the communist government was the majority and thus created The People's Republic of China (Tsin, 1995).

The People's Republic of China

Under The P.R.C., or The People's Republic of China, reshaping and reforming China's economy was a priority. Since China has undergone a communist-party led state, there have been several attempts to boost it's economy:

- The Great Leap Forward (1958): directed to raise industrial and agricultural production. Mass collaboration to grow crops, and reestablish industrial factories. However, due to poor planning, goods were unsellable and with unfortunate weather, resulted in a deadly famine. (U.S. State Department)

- Gaige Kaifang or “Reform and Opening Up “(1978): a series of reforms which included:
Expansion of private business ownership
Expanding rural income and incentives
Encouraging experiments in enterprise autonomy
Increase foreign investment in China (Hearne)
Focused on education of workforce (International Monetary Fund [IMF])

The People's Republic of China realized that the success it was looking for to reform China's economy can be focused on foreign trade and investments. This opened up a lot of job opportunities as creation of industrial factories and buildings were in demand. One focus that was taken during the reform was to provide incentives for businesses, especially family and privately owned businesses. The government wanted families to revert back to owning their own family style farms instead in order for them to generate more income, instead of the previous system which required for farms to turn in production to the state.These reforms proved to be helpful to China's economy. Between the years 1981 – 1994, exports rose 19 percent per year (Hearne) and between 1981 – 2001, poverty levels decreased rapidly and since then, China's economy only continued to rise (Ravallion, Chen).


The Current State of Economic Growth in China and Why

Before China’s tight government control lead by a one state party and before the economic reform of 1978, China was growing in GDP at about 6 percent every year. Post 1978, China was growing at an average of 13 percent each year while seeing minimal fluctuation in growth. Researchers and analysts are assuming that Chinas economy will surpass the United States in about 20 years (IMF).
According to the World Fact Book of The Central Intelligence Agency, China’s purchasing power parity ranked number three in 2009. Following the United States whose purchasing power parity is at $14,260,000,000,000 Chinas purchasing power parity is at $8,789,000,000,000. While it seems that there is large gap for China to fill in order to take over the second spot in its overall standing, Chinas continuous growth exceeds The United States who holds the second spot.
The following graph is a helpful way to visualize how successful China’s goal of economic reform has reflected stronger penetration in growth of GDP compared to the United States.
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There are numerous studies researching and analyzing China’s economic boom in order to find what is contributing to China's massive and consistent growth during a time global markets are slowing down and the United States for example is undergoing a recession.

The international Monetary Fund or the IMF did a well rounded study summarizing research based on Chinas economic success and the following outlines important factors which contribute to China’s consistent economic growth according to the IMF.

  • Economic Reform measures of 1978 (as discussed in history of China’s economic development)
  • Capital investment in economic growth: Investing in better technology, education and new factories and machinery allows for more output of goods.
  • Profit incentives to rural enterprises: These incentives to profit makes even small businesses eager to increase their income
  • Decollectivization or “Free from collective control” in rural areas: This allowed for a boost in price for agricultural products lead to increased productivity in farms while increasing efficiency. While this decreased the average number of farm workers in rural areas, it increased village enterprises where tens of millions of people shifted to “higher-value-added manufacturing.”
  • Price Reform – taking measures to control inflation
  • Foreign Investment
  • China adapted an open-door policy which contributed to raising its foreign investment from one percent in fixed investment in 1979 to an astonishing 18 percent in 1994

Chen, Ravgallion (2004, December). Fighting poverty: and lessons from china's success. Retrieved from,,contentMDK:20634060~pagePK:64165401~piPK:64165026~theSitePK:469382,00.html

Chow, G. (2007). China's economic transformation. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Hearne, C. (2009, May 6). Causes of china's economic growth. Retrieved from

International Monetary Fund, . (1997, June). Why is China growing so fast?. Retrieved from
U.S. Department of State (2009, October 30). China: Retrieved from
Relationship between China's Economic Growth and Media Censorship
Melissa Dorman
The relationship between China’s economic growth and media censorship is directly related. As the economy grows, media censorship grows and tightens along with it. Media censorship is getting worse with increased capitalism, but citizens are trying to find ways around the strict guidelines. The primary censoring agency in China is the Communist Party’s Central Propaganda Department (CPD) which works together with other monitoring agencies to ensure that media content promotes the country and the party doctrine. The guidelines suggest that information researchers, who are assigned to a media outlet, will kill controversial stories and decide how sensitive topics will be discussed.
The Chinese government has worked hard to exert different forms of media controls in order to maintain their power. They use different means of intimidation to control the citizens and to encourage journalists to self-censor in order to avoid punishment.
Censorship Tactics Include:
Dismissals and Demotions - This is one of the most common forms of punishment in China. Information researchers, who work for the government will fire or demote writers and editors who publish articles that disagree with or object to the ideas of the Communist Party’s Central Propaganda Department (CPD).
Libel - In order to intimidate media outlets and publishing companies, government officials will accuse the media agencies of libel. Libel crimes include writing critically about the Communist Party or about the ideas that they endorse. A writer may be banned from publishing a piece of work ever again, if they are found guilty.
Fines - China passed the “Emergency Response Law” in August 2007. This law bans the spread of unverified information regarding occurrences of the state including riots, natural disasters and other emergencies. The law threatened to fine journalists and publishers up to $12,500 for violations. This law had to be amended with even more ambiguous language.
Closing of News Outlets - The CPD will close down news organizations that cover issues involving them. The People’s Daily reported in 2005, that 338 publications were shut down for providing and publishing “internal” information.
Imprisonment - The Chinese government has become the world’s biggest jailor of reporters for the ninth consecutive year after imprisoning more than 24 journalists. Now that blogging and social networking are more popular, regular citizens are being jailed as well; 72 to be specific.
Self Censorship - The Chinese government has chosen to use such vague language when describing the censorship policies, that journalists and citizens are afraid to post anything publicly of questionable content. The unclear and vague rules about “taboo subjects” are enough to keep people from writing about them for now. Avoiding risk has become a main priority for journalists and has become a crucial part of the writing process.

China is even trying to control the influence of foreign media during this period of economic growth. Correspondents must get permission before reporting in other places within the country. China offered to “be open in every aspect to the rest of the country and the whole world” as they bid to host the 2008 Olympics. The open policy came into effect on January 1, 2007, and lasted through October 27, 2008. Some believe that China’s promise was unfulfilled. Foreign journalists were also allowed to report without permits before and during the Beijing Olympic Games. The Foreign Correspondents Club of China reported 178 cases of interference with foreign media in 2008 and 180 cases in 2007. These cases include detention, harassment, destruction of property and violence. Many of the 2008 Olympic bloggers are still in prison today. The Chinese government even filters content world-wide on the Internet including Yahoo!, Microsoft, and until recently Google. Chinese media experts claim that their main goal is to protect domestic censorship, claiming that it is not about social control, human surveillance, peer pressure, and self censorship.
With somewhere between 30,000 and 50,000 Internet monitors, editors and journalists are still trying to find ways around this legislation. The blogosphere seems like a safe place for writers, use humor, wit and satire to criticize the Chinese Government. Software is also being made where a specific kind of program will block certain Web sites. Controls are getting higher and more important as the economy is a growing force as well as the Internet.
China’s Media Come of Age amid State Controls, International Business Times, June 3, 2010.