Twofish's Blog

June 21, 2006

Notes on Kristoff

Filed under: china — twofish @ 4:37 am

Nicholas Kristoff posts a lot of good stuff on China, but I think he is a bit off the mark here

http://www.pekingduck.org/archives/003814.php

The logic (he can post things about Falugong) -> (The Communist Party is doomed) has some steps that are missing.

The trouble with this logic is that the Communist Party's power is not based primarily on lack of information, but rather on its control of the coercive instruments of the state.  The Communist Party is corrupt and does nasty things to Falugong.  I'm pretty sure that isn't a surprise to most Chinese, but there is a long distance from "I know that the Communist Party does nasty things" to "I'm going to go out on the street right now and overthrow the government."

And I think that Kristoff misses the purpose of the Parties use of censorship on the net.  It's less to filter out information, than to establish that "big brother is watching."

Suppose you were to read a web page in the United States talking saying "Be at this location for the overthrow the government and get rid of Bush committee which consists of the following people."  The logical assumption is that the people making the page are really anti-Bush, and if you yourself are anti-Bush you'd make contact with these people and get organized.

Now, lets suppose you read a web page in China saying "Be at this location for the overthrow the government and get rid of Hu Jintao committee."  Would you show up?  Would you contact the people that made the web site by e-mail to join the anti-Hu committee?  Of course not.  Since you know that the Chinese government censors the web, your (probably correct) conclusion is that any web page that loudly is anti-government probably shouldn't be taken at face value.  So the existence of censorship keeps people from responding to these posts, and it also keeps people from making these organizing posts in the first place.  This keeps groups that the Party is afraid of "atomized" and incapable of challenging the government.  The fact that the censorship doesn't get every last anti-government post is irrelevant.  It doesn't need to.

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