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November 13, 2006

Blog 10: Wikipedia Back in China, Though Still Censored

There are many political and social issues in the IT world. None have been as prolonged and apparent as those concerning China. While China does appear to show some signs of democratizing, its censorship has remained a major issue amongst activists and human rights groups. However, recently following a one year ban, Wikipedia has again become available in China. ( click here ).

Groups are extremely excited by the changes, however censorship exists. While “searches for apolitical terms turned up results, but searches for subjects taboo to China's Communist leadership, such as "June 4", remained blocked.” The reasons for the ban being lifted on Wikipedia are unclear. Many officials, however, have claimed that China is making new strides to support IT development and changes. China recognizes that it “now has 123 million users, making it the world's second-largest Internet market.”

Activist groups have been arguing that western companies have been “compromising their principles by censoring searches and blog titles in order to do business in China.” However, this issue remains controversial as others argue that small concessions and patience in dealing with China is the right plan, especially considering its large market. The Chinese government also recognizes the prevalence and importance of foreign business and does not want to do anything to curtail that.

We feel that these changes are extremely important. The Asian boom has been gaining international attention from all governments and businesses. While companies may oppose some practices of the Chinese government and its censorship, the country nonetheless remains rapidly growing. It is important that diplomatic relations remain positive as China continues to develop and change.

These changes, however little, are still a step in the right direction. While censorship still is a while away, improvements that allow the public to at least have some say will be great. Democratization and free speech are not instantaneous, but this is a start and its great to see these positive effects occurring in what will be one of the more influential countries in the coming years.

China's Internet Regulation
Figure – For the Chinese government, relaxing internet regulations could jeopardize their legitimacy.

We must remember that the means of social institution that we choose to live under (i.e. democracy and capitalism) is dictated by what the people wants. Essentially, communism in China was derived by the consensus that it was beneficial for the state to dictate the economic and political agendas of the country. In the contemporary era of global integration and technological advancement, state control has been a hard subject to achieve. In this sense, internet and information technology has propelled a powerful movement that can jeopardize the political control of China.

***************Update, CLICK HERE: Less than a week after the ban on Wikipedia was released in China, it was again reported blocked in several parts of China. This is a major setback, and continues to show the complexity and importance of the censorship and free speech issues concerning the internet in China.

Posted by wienma at November 13, 2006 03:12 PM


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