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J414 content analysis

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Bertrand Teo

on 22 April 2010

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Transcript of J414 content analysis

The Great Firewall,
a convenient target for Western media China-bashing: THE CASE OF SUN ZHONGJIE INTERNET CENSORSHIP IN CHINA RESEARCH QUESTIONS AND HYPOTHESIS THE IMPORTANCE OF CONTEMPORARY CHINA SCHOLARLY LITERATURE: WHAT OTHER ACADEMICS HAVE SAID METHOD FINDINGS CONCLUSION On the evening of October 14th, 2009, 18-year-old Sun was driving his company’s minivan on an errand when he was flagged by a stranger who begged with him for a lift. Without any agreement from Sun, the stranger threw some cash to him. Because of the short distance of the request, Sun capitulated and drove the vehicle only to find himself to be surrounded by police officers shortly, who accused him of operating an illegal taxi.

After being charged and released, the unjust punishment angered Sun so much that he chopped his pinky in his bedroom and reportedly collapsed on his bed crying over the injustice, the emotional pain stronger than the physical.

When Sun’s case was picked by netizens, it sparked a massive discussion on the Internet, on blogs, bulletin boards, social networking sites and others. The overwhelming demand for his release on the net was in turn also aired on national broadcast leading to officials to re-open his case. Sun was found not guilty on the second count.
The Great Firewall is a powerful metaphor that ties the idea of China’s xenophobic past – using the Great Wall to block out barbarians from the north – in the context of today’s Internet firewall used to seal of unwanted information flow.

This allusion to historically preventing foreign influence from entering its borders is meant to paint China as a totalitarian, imperial state of the old dynasties. Too often, Western media raise this image of China as such a repressive state.

This topic is important because we need to look past China as this Cold War ‘red state’ and see that many socio-cultural and historic factors affects why the government is doing what it is doing today – heightening censorship, for one. China is more than just this economic and military ‘threat’ that Western media tend to portray, it is a diverse and vibrant society that is undergoing rapid transition.


RQ1a: Is “Great Firewall” a convenient term of abuse?
RQ1b: How often is it still used?

RQ2a: What are the trends in communication content between Western and Asian media outlets?
RQ2b: Are Western media sources overly prejudice in reporting on China?

RQ3a: How much of censorship is really the government’s doing and how much is seen as necessary by the people?
RQ3b: How much is necessary for the government’s goal of a stable rising society?

H1: Is Internet censorship and the Great Firewall a convenient target for Western media criticism?
There are 253 million Chinese Internet users, most who are keen users of all sorts of social media; the US had 220.1 million users that same year, according to website Internet World Stats (http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats14.htm#north )

When blog technology was first introduced in 2002, bloggers numbered fewer than 10,000. By 2008, blog space had balloon to 107 million.

According to figures issued in 2005 by SOHU.com, one of the three major portals in China, especially in political blogs, 70% of blog users reported monthly income of less than 2000RMB (US$230).

The appeal of blogs for Chinese netizens is in its “frequency, brevity, ease of use, personality” and, most importantly, it being an information source that is unfiltered and unmediated. This has led to “over 50 million regular people” reading blogs regularly

Such is the meteoric ascent of the Internet that has led to many speculating what it can do for society. Foremost on western media’s minds, is that Web 2.0 will lead to a movement of the people to fight for more rights – the Internet is popularly seen as a tool for democratization. The rapid growth of the Internet, however, has also been monitored by the CCP government who has taken steps to regulate its use.

Up to the 15th century, China had been consistently one of the most advanced and largest economies in the world.

With the advent of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, many caught a glimpse of the capital’s rapid modernization. But from Shenzhen to Dalian, Guangzhou to Shanghai, many of the leading cities of China are catching up or on par with modern Asian counterparts like Taipei, Singapore, Seoul and Tokyo.

It is very relevant to current day foreign policy discussion given its rising power, and the fact that the sole superpower of the world, the United States owes China nearly a trillion. I will review all news articles from American/Western Web-based major news outlets from 2009 and 2010 including major Web dailies such NYT, Washington Post, the BBC and others, and compare those to Asian-based. I will derive from the 20 articles and deduce:

what percentage of the stories refer to Internet censorship in China’s as the “Great Firewall,”
what the tone of the article was, and whether they were
for or against censorship.

Since the case of Google v. China is timely and has widespread international attention, I will draw articles regarding this issue for analysis. My categories will answer the question of what the communication trends regarding news stories toward China, and thus, conclude whether Western outlets are indeed harboring unwarranted bias to China.
RQ1a – 1b:
Out of the ten news stories drawn from US and Western (one British) outlets, only two used “Great Firewall. For Asian-based news outlets, only one was used.

RQ2a – 2b:
6 out of the 10 US-based news stories painted China negatively, whereas for Asian-based outlets 3 of the 10 were negative.

RQ3a – 3b:
Most news outlets said were against censorship. Only one US-base academic article by a Chinese author argued that censorship may be necessary for a country moving so quickly.
Many scholars highlighted that the Internet and social media as galvanizing a “participatory citizenship." But they have also noted the CCP’s effective Internet filtering technology, coupled with strong policy enforcement, that have been more than successful in blocking out unwanted comments.

1. In “Political blogosphere in China,” Zhou noted a potential policy requiring all blogs to be registered might change the Chinese blogosphere, rendering it redundant for political expression since no one would dare to criticize the government using their true identities.

2. In the paper, “The Rise of Online Public Opinion and Its Political Impact,” the author noted that the CCP had always been aware of how the Internet's characteristic of allowing freeflowing information, had led them to use “multilayered technologies” to filter the net.

3. In the paper, “The Gr8 Firewall as Iron Curtain 2.0: the implications of China’s Internet most dominant metaphor for U.S. Foreign Policy.” Author Tsui Lokman’s paper raised a distinct point that became the premise of this content analysis:

The Great Firewall likewise hints at repression and a subsequent false consciousness: it is preventing Chinese Internet users form receiving the information they want. As Wang jisi (2001) states: "It is a Western propensity to view Chinese politics as a constant division between 'the authorities,' which are preconceived as hostile to the West, and 'the people,' who must be friendly to the United States and its allies." But how many people in China think censorship should be abandoned? (Tsui)

His paper continued to show figures from the Chinese Academic of Social Sciences survey on Internet censorship asking if the Internet ‘should be controlled or managed:

…36.7% of the population deemed it 'very necessary, while 45.6% deemed it 'necessary'. This is an overwhelming majority (82.4%) in favor of internet regulation and the result is not so different in the 2003 survey (86.1%). When asked about the specific types of content, the majority wants regulation of porn (85%), violence (73%) and spam (53%). A small percentage thinks there should be regulation for political content (8%), while a rising concern is online gaming (16%). However, what the numbers are not able to show is a feeling of indignation by at least some of the Chinese internet users. In what was dubbed (Tsui)
In each case, US and Western news media were 50% more likely to be critical toward China than Asian-base news media.

From this analysis using news stories on the Google v. China issue, what is derived is that the “Great firewall” is no longer in fashion; given way to more politically correct terms like “Golden Shield.”

Also, note that the only Asian-based news outlet to use the term “Great Firewall” in relation the Google case was Japan Times. Japanese news media is widely known to be hostile in their criticism toward China, due to the current and past rivalry between the two nations.

While most news media – given the nature of their business – were against censorship, but the trend in writing about Google v. China showed that Western news media were twice as likely to reflect on China as the antagonist.

Western news media clearly harbored a strong bias, particularly in reporting about Internet censorship – from the content analysis, this issue is a convenient issue to criticize China. A myriad of issues regarding Internet censorship can be reported, but Western news media would choose reporting it in a sensationalistic way that taints China’s image.

Given that a principle of journalism is to be objective, these Western news media outlets need to alter their lens when writing about China, incorporating a more balanced and contextual outlook in their stories.
CODING SHEET A content analysis of Western and Asian news stories on
Google v. China CHINA’S METEORIC INTERNET ASCENT The basic units are the words “Great FireWall.” The categories used are the tone of the article (whether positive or negative), and the point of view represented (was the author for or against censorship?).

Paper. 1=CJR; 2=NYT; 3=Washington Post; 4=AP; 5=TIME; 6=csmonitor; 7=sfgate.com; 8=The Guardian; 9=yaleglobal; 10=Slate; 11= koreatimes; 12=todayonline; 13=japantimes.com; 14=The Times of India; 15=The Star; 16=Xinhua; 17=Taipei Times; 18=The Standard; 19=Asahi Shimbun; 20=People’s Daily

Use of phrase (Great FireWall). 1=N; 2=N; 3=N, 4=N; 5=Y; 6=N; 7=N; 8=N; 9=N; 10=Y; 11=N, 12=N; 13=Y; 14=N; 15=N; 16=N; 17=N; 18=N; 19=N; 20=N
Overall tone of the article (whether positive or negative of China). 1=-ve; 2=neu; 3=-ve; 4=neu; 5=-ve; 6=neu; 7=-ve; 8=-ve; 9=+ve; 10=-ve; 11=+ve; 12=-ve; 13=-ve; 14=neu; 15=+ve; 16=+ve; 17=neu; 18=neu; 19=-ve; 20=+ve

Main point of article (for/against censorship?). 1=against; 2=against; 3=against; 4=n/a; 5=against; 6=against; 7=against; 8=n/a; 9=for; 10=against; 11=n/a; 12=against; 13=against; 14=n/a; 15=n/a; 16=for; 17=against; 18=n/a; 19=against; 20=n/a
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