It is a known fact that the Chinese government has launched some very severe restrictions on social media channels such as Twitter or Facebook, and it seems that China defends blocking these western websites. The main reason why the Chinese government has taken this measure is because these media sites allegedly have the ability to spread rumors, and the media must fall in the law of the country and to best serve the interests of its people. The Chinese ambassador to the United Kingdom claimed that media must be good and properly inform the Chinese citizens instead of spreading rumors and promoting bias against the country.
Throughout 2013, not only Facebook and Twitter were blocked by the Chinese government – along with them, the access of Chinese users to Reuters, The Guardian, Bloomberg or even the New York Times has been constantly restricted and unrestricted. Nevertheless, the foreign media is not the only one that is subjected to these harsh regulations, as the Chinese media must be very careful as well – the media companies in the country should avoid publishing critical stories and the Chinese journalists even need to pass ideology exams if they want to maintain their press cards.
In spite of banning these media websites, it is believed that these restrictive measures will not last for long as people will always travel to and from China, therefore making the “outside news” unavailable to the locals is simply impossible as long as the borders are open to the public. What actually bothers the Chinese Government is that Western journalists must provide an unbiased and objective picture of China in the media, rather than promoting stereotypes that can affect the image of the country both in the eyes of the locals and in those of the foreigners.
As some journalists that operate in China and Asia claim, these restrictive tactics are anything but new and the Xi government will continue to put pressure on the foreign media and to prevent it from having any negative impact on the country. The Chinese government’s methods of restricting the foreign media are many: while website blocking may turn out to be the most effective one in this situation, it is not uncommon for foreign journalists to go through “Visa games” or even to be expelled if the government deems it necessary.
Jeff Randall has interviewed the Ambassador Liu Xiaoming for the Sky News and it has asked him why some of the world’s most influential media websites were blocked. The Ambassador replied that this was a necessary measure in order to serve the best interests of the Chinese people, and that the only purpose of the government is to manage media according to the current laws, be it foreign or Chinese. The Ambassador also claimed that the Chinese government wants to promote what is referred to as “healthy content” that promotes mutual understanding in China.
The rumor has it that Bloomberg and the New York Times were both blocked after doing some investigative journalism work that aimed to expose the wealth of China’s leaders, including the wealth of Xi Jinping which is currently the country’s president.
Even though Twitter, Bloomberg as well as Facebook have been blocked, there is yet another platform that somewhat resembles Twitter and it is known as Weibo – however, the access to Weibo is not restricted since it is domestically controlled and all the negative posts are immediately censored or even deleted, if the government considers that they may damage the interests of the people. However, this would be practically impossible with the above-mentioned media websites as they are foreign and China has absolutely no control over the content that is published there.
As some people claim, many Chinese users use virtual private networks to change their IP addresses and to basically “trick” the system into believing that they are accessing the foreign media websites from outside the country, thus allowing them to access the information. At the time being, this seems to be the most efficient way for users to gather unbiased information from foreign media channels and platforms, because the Chinese government does not seem too eager to remove the ban on The New York Times, Bloomberg, Twitter or Facebook in the near future. One thing is for sure: this restriction may lead to a big discrepancy between what some Chinese people think about the outside world and vice-versa.