Recently, Chinese President Xi Jinping has increased China’s already aggressive Internet censorship. The new advances in China’s Great Firewall attack the popular Chinese messaging app “Wechat”, used by millions of Chinese citizens. Qiao Mu, a former journalism professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University who recently emigrated to the U.S. claims “Wechat groups scared the party because it’s the simplest way to mobilize and organize a group of people.”
New regulations punish admins of group chats for allowing group members to post things deemed inappropriate by the Chinese government. While most censored material opposes the Chinese government, the popular cartoon character Winnie the Pooh is banned due to a trend of comparing President Jinping to the infamously fat bear. To combat this censorship many Chinese citizens began using encrypted messaging services and VPNs (Virtual Private Networks). However, the Chinese government is also attacking these programs, encouraging Apple to remove such apps from the Chinese App Store.
In 1994, when the Internet came to China, the government wanted to protect its value and political ideas from the threat of other ideologies. Then Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping famously said “If you open a window for fresh air for longer than 10 hours, you have to expect some flies to blow in” pertaining to the issue of threatening ideologies. This largely explains the start of Internet censorship in China.
One of the first “flies” that China feared was support for the China Democracy Party through the Internet in 1998; Members of the CDP were subsequently arrested and imprisoned. China followed up theses arrests by starting the Golden Shield Project, which mostly targeted to censor the Internet. China did pass the Temporary Regulation for the Management of Computer Information Network International Connection in 1996; however, the Golden Shield Project began the level of censorship seen in modern China. In June of 2010, China released the White Papers, documents that state China’s motive and reason for censorship, proclaiming that as China is a sovereign state, it has the right to govern the internet within its borders.
China’s crackdown on messaging apps such as “Wechat” are only the latest regulations in China’s long history of Internet censorship. Given the rapid progress in communications technology and Internet communication, the fight to censor it will challenge the Chinese government.