Censorship limits Chinese understanding of US election

Censorship of the Chinese media can stop the Chinese getting a full view of US Politics. Photo credit: www.dreamstime.com

By Miao Cai

China’s state-owned media has historically reported US presidential elections in relation to how the chosen candidate would benefit Chinese foreign policy.

Censorship of media in China is largely seen as a way the Communist Party of China maintains its control. Because of this censorship, Chinese citizens have a difficult time learning the real issues that might be occurring in a foreign political campaign, or even how President Barack Obama or Mitt Romney really feel about China and its policies.

According to a 2005 Freedom House report, “state control over the news media in China is achieved through a complex combination of party monitoring of news content, legal restrictions on journalists, and financial incentives for self-censorship.”

Miller Gu, an MA student majoring in politics at Fudan University said, “sometimes I feel our media is trying to choose a president for the US based on its possible Chinese policy. I really want an all-round perspective.”

Yang Shiqun, a professor of political science and law at East China University said the misrepresentation and censorship of the reporting of the US presidential election is not what matters. The most important thing is not about the election itself, but rather about the democracy behind the political process and how China can adopt that democratic system as its own. However, democracy seems a distant prospect.

“FC,” a user on the Chinese social networking website Douban joked about the current portrayal of the US election in Chinese media, “Chinese media just mainly try to remind everyone that whoever finally gets elected better remember that the US owes China a lot of money and they have to pay it immediately.”

Dr. Joyce Nip, a lecturer at The University of Sydney said that while a discussion about democracy does not come into the reporting, the positive development of citizen journalism has changed how media work in China, but despite these movements forward, the media is still under the control of the government.

Bonnie Ao, a frequent poster to Douban, had one of her micro-blogging sites censored by the government, “I did say something about the US election,” she said. “I don’t know what went wrong but it was deleted by the website saying some contents should not be presented. They delete something without explanation. So you will never know.”

“I did not say anything irrational or radical. But there are people saying every website has a long list of sensitive words. If you happen to use one or two of them, they will delete your post automatically. Too many comments cannot have the chance to spread,” she said.

The development of new media is trying to create a much more transparent Chinese media environment under government pressure and it still has a long way to go

“We need freedom and all of us need to think about our media’s future,” Shiqun said.