Posting an opinion on my blog? I get pulled over.

Sending a sexy email to my boyfriend? He’s not the only one reading it.

Why is it so difficult to tweet? Because Twitter is blocked.

Permitted headlines only considered good for me, watching television with blacked out broadcasts, and never having heard Axl Rose sing ‘Chinese Democracy’, makes the Chinese media policy one that battles with tradition and modernity.

China has been rated as one of the lowest countries regarding political freedoms.  While they seemingly allow their citizens right to press and protest, “self-censorship” threatens journalists and individuals alike with high fines and jail time if controversial knowledge is distributed. Strict regulations on media channels through the Internet stretch over sixty distinct laws including blocked search engines and information flow that is heavily monitored by several government operations.

When one normally worries about not mentioning a friend’s bad haircut, those under the People’s Republic of China have to watch what they say, or else they don’t say it at all. The biggest shock for democratic societies where freedom of speech is derived would be the Chinese banishment of social media sites such as youtube and Facebook.

Media is of particular concern when it comes to censorship, as it is a means of interaction between individuals andcommunities stretching Worldwide.  These channels are considered to be one of the greatest tools for up to date news reports, networking, and to be the mastermind behind a One World notion.  Social media is of great use as it is able to reach a wider audience with it’s accessibility, immediacy, and permanence.

In order to secure political authority foreign organizations and individuals must obey by the Chinese Internet censorship policy while in the country.  This means outside correspondents have no access to social media channels, and providing information to an outside source can only be done with permission from the State.

Restricting media may sound barbaric but with the World’s second largest economy, a population of 1.3 billion people, and a country heavily relied on for the import and export of goods, China is quickly becoming our planet’s next superpower.

So how is it that a country that just 35 years ago had most of its citizens living on rations is now able to buy US debt and develop a powerful presence in Africa?

China’s rise to superpower status can be attributed to Deng Ziaoping, influential leader of the Communist Party of China who, in 1978, completely reformed China’s domestic, social, political, and economic spheres by adopting a socialist market economy.  These reforms based on state-ownership and state management of production were able to stabilize the Chinese economy but at the same time, turned China into an authoritarian state.  So while the Chinese constitution permits it’s citizens to freedom of speech, the country still remains under arbitrary law and government control.

That being said, while countries of free market economies drowned in financial crisis, China’s GDP has been increasing since the implementation of these reforms and the support of government within the country remains tenacious.

With a country as large and powerful as China, one asks if there is really any room for democratic ideas.  But as China edges closer to superstardom, one also ponders how long will they be able to enforce these restrictions on not only their citizens but also the World.

So although our trip to China has been an excellent way of extending ÉCU to a wider audience it still poses the questions

Where would our festival be without the use of social media?

And, what sort of films would be censored from our submissions in an authoritarian regime?

When you control the media, you control the message, and right now, all we can say from our work in China, is that.

Catherine Chapman

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