China Micro-Censors The VP Debate In The Most Hamfisted Way

from the no-signal dept

It's common knowledge now that the Chinese government heavily censors the access its population has to the internet and information writ large. It's been a decade since China first proffered that its Great Firewall of China was not actually censorship, but was merely a method for "safeguarding" its citizens. Safeguarding them, it seems, primarily from any international criticism of the Chinese regime itself, which sure seems like it's more about safeguarding the government, rather than the citizens. In the subsequent decade, whatever skin China had to weather criticism further sloughed away such that the government is now not only actively pressuring groups and companies within Chinese borders, but actively attempting to affect its censorship outside those borders as well.

Whatever else we might want to say about Chinese censorship, it most certainly is not subtle. This was on full display when the government essentially pulled the plug on streams for the American Vice Presidential debate precisely during a segment discussing China's actions on COVID-19.

China’s censors cut off Vice President Mike Pence mid-sentence during the debate with Sen. Kamala Harris when he called out the Chinese Communist Party for its mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic.

As Pence Wednesday night began to criticize Beijing’s response, saying “China is to blame,” CNN’s feed in China suddenly cut out and the words “no signal – please stand by” appeared over a test pattern.

Again, not subtle. And that's actually kind of important, because if you put yourself in the shoes of a Chinese citizen, it's difficult to imagine that you wouldn't know precisely what is going on here. The real question is whether the transparent censorship in cases such as this is a feature or a bug. If a bug, it doesn't serve Chinese government purposes. It will be clear that the censorship is to mask criticism of the ruling party. If a feature, well, the idea is that China doesn't mind the transparent nature of this exertion of control. It's a muscle flex, in that case.

The question is how long can this authoritarian approach expand before the rubber-band reaches its limits and snaps back on the regime. In an increasingly connected and global world, and with China very much wanting play a lead role on that stage, it's own thin-skin may be a high barrier.

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Filed Under: censorship, china, free speech, kamala harris, mike pence, us, vp debate


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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Jerry Attric, 8 Oct 2020 @ 9:04pm

    And GOOGLE does this every day, by simply OMITTING

    what doesn't suit their own authoritarian agenda.

    It's called a "propaganda bubble", not at new. The New York Times has been doing it since they were praising Stalin -- and Mao -- while hating America.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      R.H. (profile), 8 Oct 2020 @ 11:35pm

      Re: And GOOGLE does this every day, by simply OMITTING

      Once again, the difference between Google and the People's Republic of China is that one is a limited liability company wholly owned by a corporation and the other is a sovereign state with the ability to jail those who disagree with it. Do I need to tell you which is which?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 8 Oct 2020 @ 11:46pm

      Re: And GOOGLE does this every day, by simply OMITTING

      Weird. You'd think that if you had such a problem with Google's new reporting, you'd just stop using them and use their many competitors, same with the newspapers you're obsessed with. I mean, I have no problem getting news from multiple sources even though the right-wing echo chamber is a hilarious source of misinformation and fiction, so it's strange how you find it so difficult.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Code Monkey (profile), 9 Oct 2020 @ 4:26am

      Re: And GOOGLE does this every day, by simply OMITTING

      ...and libs prefer to live in their own ignorance when commenting on yet another example of conservative bias.

      Jerry, ya picked the wrong forum to do that.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Oct 2020 @ 5:49am

      Re: And GOOGLE does this every day, by simply OMITTING

      .. and google ..

      That's all you've got? Look, over there - shiny object!
      Why not address the topic?

      Am I to believe that the GOP is not immersed in their own little propaganda bubble? Is there an unbiased source? What might that be?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 9 Oct 2020 @ 6:43am

      Re: And GOOGLE does this every day, by simply OMITTING

      So to the alt-right not only is Google a government agency able to prohibit people from speaking it's now an entirely new nation all its own?

      Do you have to apply for a visitor's visa in order to access google now?

      "The New York Times has been doing it since they were praising Stalin -- and Mao -- while hating America."

      You know how we can tell you're either a deranged historyless crackpot or a a deranged historyless crackpot who thinks he's just trolling, bro?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 9 Oct 2020 @ 11:29am

      Re: And GOOGLE does this every day, by simply OMITTING

      There are few if any restrictions from Google, in the USA.
      And Why do you think?
      How about you can go direct to any site, even bypass the DNS from google or your ISP.
      Goto Any site or News you want.

      But in China, you have a hard time seeing anything OUTSIDE of China.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Oct 2020 @ 10:38pm

    not subtle

    "Chinese censorship, it most certainly is not subtle"

    ... gee, you'd think you could trust a massive tyrannical communist government. Who knew?

    The Soviet communists safely retained power for two generations and only collapsed when their economic incompetence destroyed their government foundation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Valis (profile), 9 Oct 2020 @ 1:51am

    The usual US hypocrisy, yawn...

    Maybe if the USA would stop lying and pumping out disinformation and lies 24/7 then China wouldn't find it necessary to censor their lies. Every time a US politician opens their mouth lies come out. Why should we be forced to listen to lies all the time?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Oct 2020 @ 4:28am

      Re: The usual US hypocrisy, yawn...

      Hmm? <raised eyebrow> Ah. Looking back in your comment history, this is pretty much your thing. Tear down the US, support China.

      And perhaps you missed the difference between censorship and debate. China wants to keep the words from you, whether truthful or not. USA is happy to say those words, and have people point out the reasons they are - or are not - wrong.

      Every time a US politician opens their mouth lies come out.

      And that's a mighty big generalization you're sweeping with. Especially when there's a TV remote right beside your arm. "forced to listen to"? Really? You must be more decrepit than I would think, if you can't change the channel.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 9 Oct 2020 @ 5:56am

        Re: Re: The usual US hypocrisy, yawn...

        "USA is happy to say those words, and have people point out the reasons they are - or are not - wrong."

        Agreed, except ... Happy? lol, Get real.
        More like begrudgingly, and you had better watch your backside when making said comments critical of people who think they are somebody.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 9 Oct 2020 @ 7:08am

      Re: The usual US hypocrisy, yawn...

      I'd like to say you're wrong, mr China-does-no-wrong, but...
      ...no, scratch that, why would China find it necessary to censor the lies of another party? Surely it's up to the chinese citizenry to formulate their own opinion, in possession of all the facts?

      "Why should we be forced to listen to lies all the time?"

      ...You do realize that even here in the west we aren't forced to watch? Everyone can simply turn off their TV when it gets too much.

      However, when a government enforces what the citizenry is or is not allowed to hear then that's just the government taking away the citizen's right to choose.
      To be fair China hasn't in 2500 years understood or practiced anything remotely resembling free speech so I realize the concept may come as a bit of a culture clash - but i'd at least expect Hua Xia to be a bit more open about its policies given that information control has always been such a solid cornerstone of Qin Shi Huang's old empire.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Narcissus (profile), 9 Oct 2020 @ 1:51am

    Not the answer you'd like

    The question is how long can this authoritarian approach expand before the rubber-band reaches its limits and snaps back on the regime.

    Unfortunately probably longer than you might hope. It's a well known fact, for example, that some North Korean defectors still believe that the Kim family is the best thing that happened to Korea. If North Korea is a hell hole that's because of the people that are working against the Kims. They believe that even if they're in South Korea where they should be able to see that's a lie.

    That's how powerful propaganda is. Compare that also to the Trumpist army that believes many blatantly untrue things about their savior and messiah, like that he is a successful business man. If they stay in the echo chamber it doesn't mater what the facts are.

    I think most Chinese will assume that the government/communist party edited out some lies form Pence about China to protect them and keep their blood pressure in the Zen zone.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 9 Oct 2020 @ 7:19am

      Re: Not the answer you'd like

      "I think most Chinese will assume that the government/communist party edited out some lies form Pence about China to protect them and keep their blood pressure in the Zen zone."

      One of the most hateful things about Trump's administration is that i actually have to give the chinese government the benefit of doubt there; Pence certainly moves my blood pressure right out of the Zen zone.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      OldMugwump (profile), 9 Oct 2020 @ 9:02am

      Re: Not the answer you'd like

      "some North Korean defectors still believe that the Kim family is the best thing that happened to Korea"

      I'm not sure that proves anything other than North Korea has it's share of complete morons, same as every other country.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 12 Oct 2020 @ 1:33am

        Re: Re: Not the answer you'd like

        "I'm not sure that proves anything other than North Korea has it's share of complete morons"

        Ironically No one's ever considered how "Stockholm Syndrome" pans out when it's large parts of a national population affected by it.

        "...same as every other country."

        I'd argue there's a difference between a citizenry raised on state propaganda and with no access to outside news or factual history...and a citizenry in possession of those outside news and factual history and still chooses to believe the most outrageously illogical and malicious fairy tale around.

        At least you can claim the North Koreans are actual victims.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    crade (profile), 9 Oct 2020 @ 6:43am

    "which sure seems like it's more about safeguarding the government, rather than the citizens"

    There is no difference, you just aren't thinking dershowitz enough..

    As to China just cutting out the parts they are censoring.. In a way it isn't subtle, yes but you have to remember that every foreign news broadcast in china looks like that.. Years and years ago when I was there for a trip it was the same thing the screen would sometimes just cut out completely, it wasn't subtle that they were censoring something but what that was and whether it was something dumb about winnie the pooh or something important you had no idea

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 9 Oct 2020 @ 8:25am

    The first rule of China...Don't talk about China.

    Second rule of China...Watch out for honeypots, Winnie the Pooh is watching...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    OldMugwump (profile), 9 Oct 2020 @ 8:59am

    Unsubtle censorship

    ...is surely better than subtle censorship.

    At least people know exactly what the government's doing.

    China is running an interesting experiment. So far (since Mao died in 1976) it's been going really well - 1/3 of the population of the planet has been lifted out of absolute poverty in a single generation.

    Whether the system is stable in the long run, I have no idea. I'm glad I'm not part of the experiment. But I'm very interested in the result.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 12 Oct 2020 @ 1:44am

      Re: Unsubtle censorship

      "China is running an interesting experiment. So far (since Mao died in 1976) it's been going really well - 1/3 of the population of the planet has been lifted out of absolute poverty in a single generation."

      Can't really call it an "experiment". This is just China doing exactly what China has been doing since Qin Shi Huang first united the six kingdoms. The prosperity, education and wealth of that empire has ebbed and flowed like the tide. The broken empire collapsing under Genghis Khan resurged to new renaissance under Kublai and after his Yuan dynasty fell, kept surging under the Ming.
      China has had these pendulum swings many times. New faces, new names...Same old empire, and above all, same old Bureaucracy of mandarins running the real show.

      Their "century of humiliation" was one of those low point. Now the tide has been coming in once again.

      The only thing the "revolution" really accomplished was a small hiccup where, after Mao, the bureaucracy discovered they didn't need a figurehead emperor. Or perhaps not now that Xi Jin Ping is President For Life, long may the Son of Heaven reign.

      "Whether the system is stable in the long run, I have no idea."

      As stable as it's always been. A pseudo-feudal society of oligarchs committed to warlord-style capitalism tempered by political autocratic fiat is, apparently, good enough to last for thousands of years with only minor hitches. They invented Keynesian economy rules a long, long time ago.

      The assertions of "communism" or even "socialism" the PRC itself keeps selling as truth is just that much smoke and mirrors, intended to keep a population sick of weak and hapless imperial government pacified.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 9 Oct 2020 @ 11:33am

    Dont like sayhing it.

    Monkey see monkey do?

    Lesson not learned.
    If you arnt the biggest Builder, be the biggest user.
    it keeps the builder working, and the user happy.
    Unless you want MORE control.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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