The 'Blog' Revolution Sweeps Across China

Meet the bloggers who are keeping one step ahead of the censors


| December 2, 2004


When the Chinese government encouraged the establishment of Internet cafes, it hoped to 'Westernize' its work force and become more economically competitive. What it got, however, was 'Westernization' of a very different kind -- the people of China suddenly had access to a tide of information so overwhelming that censors simply couldn't keep up with it. Though the Chinese government has continually modified its surveillance apparatus to censor and sanitize Internet use, establishing a 'Great Firewall' that selectively filters incoming and outgoing content, widely available blog software is rendering such efforts futile. New blogs are being created faster than they are being shut down: China currently has a half-million bloggers, and the number is steadily increasing. With their prodigious size and decentralized nature, Chinese blogging networks can rapidly disseminate dissenting voices and reproduce banned news. They have also developed a rapidly changing lexicon of euphemisms for terms like 'dictatorship' and 'truth' that are scanned for by censors, and they provide a crucial outlet for subcultures that fall outside of traditional social and moral norms. The fight against censorship in China is an endless game of cat and mouse, but as free blogging tools pervade Chinese Internet culture, the cats are finding themselves hopelessly outgunned.
-- Brendan Themes

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