Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
China’s scary lesson to the world: Censoring the Internet works (washingtonpost.com)
345 points by molecule on May 24, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 299 comments



Of course it does. I wouldn't bet that it will last though. I often tell people how I was born under communism and that what happened before 1989 in Romania and maybe in other Easter European countries makes the 1984 novel seem unrealistic and boring. We had far worst forms of censorship and propaganda, paranoia about being caught with doublethink by nosy neighbors was at al times high, yet everything looked normal, roses red, sky blue, etc. But the social dissent was there, buried within all layers of society, because you cannot stop thought or even word of mouth. And it didn't happen overnight, it took more than 40 years, but in the end we shot our dictators on Christmas day. Not a smart thing to do, not real justice, but you know, when the revolution came people feared for their lives and in the end the many trump the few, a fact that governments tend to forget.

I don't care much about what the Chinese do within their borders. The far more aggravating thing is that we tolerate China, choose to do business with Chinese companies and buy Chinese products.

Now that's fucked up, because we are trading our values, for which people freaking died to win, for short term convenience, also sending the message that it's OK as a country to violate basic human rights, as long as you're powerful enough. Money trumps everything, great thing to teach our kinds, kudos folks.


> The far more aggravating thing is that we tolerate China, choose to do business with Chinese companies and buy Chinese products.

A trade embargo (aka cold war) would be a lot worse for everyone involved.. Leads to arms race and threats of war, even less freedom and more injustice for the people (eg North Korea).

> we are trading our values, for which people freaking died to win, for short term convenience ..

Yeah, we do that with Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iraq and many more. That's the essence of business - trade one thing for another. We trade our "freedom to do whatever we want" for a salary. We trade our "freedom to party" for the happiness of raising a child... It's one of those laws of life which we might not entirely like, but cannot escape.

> people freaking died to win

People die - that's the only absolute we can rely on. Don't get carried away with "dying for .. something", most often this is not true - most died because delusional leaders sent them into battle ... only after the fact their death got dressed into "honorable cause"..

In the end, the higher morals are dictated by whoever managed to seize power..

Which, by the way brings us back to the censorship thing..


I don't think we have the same definition for freedom. Here's one freedom that we do have: I have the freedom to denounce China's attitude towards censorship and you're free to counteract with other arguments, leading us to dialog, on a public forum.

And on people dying, that's just another way of saying that great sacrifice has been made for us to enjoy the lifestyle and freedoms that we do have, so we can't trade those so easily, because then our children will have to repay that price.


Great sacrifice was also made for the Chinese people to enjoy the way of life that they have.

In international issues, it's important to not lose sight of the possibility that there are multiple correct ways to solve political problems.


Great sacrifice was also made for the Chinese people to enjoy the way of life that they do not yet have.

http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/01651/tiananmen_...


but those who don't enjoy it, can't say so. thats not a correct way to solve a problem. its a useless sacrifice.


Isn't it all relative? Couldn't a fully libertarian state make some claims about freedom regarding the US that are similar to the claims the US makes regarding China? That's the problem with using something as vague and over-encompassing as "freedom", it's only a step removed from "evil" in how vague it can be. Additionally, all freedoms are not created equal. Is my right to due process as important as my right to bear arms? Are some of my views on my rights colored by the culture I live in, or are they all universal?

I think China is lacking in some important rights, but I think being vague about them to the degree that we say they have "less freedom" only muddies the problem, and allows people to use the rights they do have as a counter-argument. Being clear that China's suppression of free speech allows them to shape discourse, suppress ideas they don't like, and propagandize their citizens easily makes the dangers clear. It does also open up the discussion for how the west attempts to accomplish the same things through the media, but that's not necessarily a bad thing have have brought up.


> Isn't it all relative? Couldn't a fully libertarian state make some claims about freedom regarding the US that are similar to the claims the US makes regarding China?

No, there's a fundamental difference between living in a country where you have recourse against the government and living in one where you don't.

In the US, I am not allowed to say things that are considered slanderous, but I am allowed to say that I should be allowed to say things that are slanderous. This makes it at least possible to change the status quo.

The same is not true in countries without free speech protections.


Considering the second part of my comment, I'm not sure how this is anything but a non sequitur. You start with "No", and then do exactly what I say you should, which is to explain in detail what the problem is, and not just resort to "not free" as your evidence.


My bad. It took me several re-reads of your comment to figure out that you were attacking the usage of the word "freedom" and not comparisons between freedoms in China and other countries.


Fair enough. If it took you several readings, then I probably wasn't very clear. At a minimum, our exchange might have clarified my intent for others who were unclear on my point, so I thank you for that.


The same is not true in countries without free speech protections.

I'm not convinced. I've seen plenty of (presumably) US citizens complain here that Europe doesn't have free speech, because we have laws to curb hate speech.

Still, we are very much free to discuss and organize against our government.


If you are allowed to criticize policy, you have a discrete and specific right that people in other parts of the world do not. My point was that saying "it's all relative" doesn't tell the whole story, though I'm beginning to see that that was probably kbenson's point as well.


> I have the freedom to denounce China's attitude towards censorship

Just like the Chinese have the freedom to denounce US imperalism. Now, try something more serious, like calling for actual Western war criminals, and those of Western allies, to be brought to court. You won't go to jail; because nobody (who matters) will listen to you. And what would happen if you managed to actually start something that had a real chance at getting people in front of a judge and behind bars, that we can just guess at, since nobody has done it before.


They (Chinese people) don't have the freedom to denounce US imperialism though, because that implies a choice - if they were equally able to rejoice and accept western values as they were to reject them (like you can in the USA incidentally), then your statement would be right.


Oh, I think Mr. Snowden would disagree on the "nobody has done it before." And he wasn't the first.


I don't know that Snowden is a good example: he had to flee his country in a hurry. There is a great deal of uncertainty about whether he would have a fair trial in the US, a country where many are calling him a traitor.


That's seletz's point.

It's easy for people to embrace the rhetoric that China is a bound society and the West is made of free societies. In reality, the shape of the bindings is different. A free society wouldn't have forced a man to flee because he knew he wouldn't find justice after revealing an uncomfortable political truth to the public that is oppressed by it. America's methods are different, but being a superpower and an empire demands supreme authority in key areas.


Oh, if that was seletz's point, then I agree with it.

I thought he was claiming in the US it was possible to be a dissident without censorship or repression. My mistake!


Well -- I think it's a bit more subtle than that. And maybe a bit more scary. While one would believe that there can be "dissidents" in the US w/o repression based on what one reads on the net -- e.g. the the "US" representing the "free world" yadda yadda ... -- the repressions and censorships are more subtle in general.

Also, one must not confuse the US with "the western world". I live in Germany, and I believe that you could be a dissident here w/o censorship. I also believe this is true for most other European countries.

My original point was that the statement: > And what would happen if you managed to actually start something that had a real chance at getting people in front of a judge and behind bars, that we can just guess at, since nobody has done it before.

Is simply not true. Mentioned Mr. Snowden as an example -- but there are more, like the huge leak of the panama papers.


Well, it's true that somebody has done it. Those who've done it are either exiled, behind bars, facing suspiciously timed "unrelated" charges that could result in extradition, or anonymous. Not sure that invalidates the point the person you're quoting was making: that there is repression of dangerous ideas in the US.

I'm less familiar with Germany, but I'm willing to bet that while people in principle can say whatever they want (with some exceptions), there are other, less visible forms of repression and/or means of neutralizing those opinions. That they are less overt than in China doesn't mean they are not there.


> I live in Germany, and I believe that you could be a dissident here w/o censorship.

Just don't say "The Nazis are great and I really wish they were back in power." That'll get you straight-up jailed under section 86a of Strafgesetzbuch, if I understand correctly. Everything else is on the table. ;)

http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html


Well -- apart from the fact that you probably wouldn't () -- one can always come up with something which is against "rules". Be it social rules, rules you made up in your head, law and so on. Rules are what it takes apparently to uphold a coherent society.

The question is what happens if you break the rules. Are there rules on how to handle individuals who break rules? Do the ones who have the power also have to follow the same rules? What about those wo make the rules? Do they have to follow the rules? How is the process of rule-making, rule-checking and punishing separated?

I'm pretty sure that in most european countries this is pretty OK -- yes there are gaps, holes, and sometimes just plain unjust or unfair processes.

I'm also pretty damn sure that for some countries this is way off. China is IMNSHO one of them.

() There are still people wandering about who say this and similar things who are not in jail. You much more likely would get in trouble if you call someone a "goat-fucker" (google erdogan and jan böhmermann).


no matter how i admire mr snowden, I didn't catch any news mentioning someone from US agencies/government being bought before judge because of his revelations. Did I miss something?


Are you suggesting that there is some sort of equivalence between people refusing to listen to your stuff, and getting sent to jail for your words/beliefs?


I said what I said. Why repeat it? Your question sounds like I couldn't be possibly serious. Assume I am serious.


> nobody (who matters) will listen to you

I do like freedom of speech just about as far as I have the freedom to not have to listen to it (or, Goddess forbid, take it seriously).


Just because people died, doesn't mean we have to honor them and keep hold of what they caused. That's the logic of Christianity. Most soldiers don't really die for any noble purpose, they just fight other soldiers and eventually somebody wins. Nobody knows if the winner will end up good or bad, free or oppressive. It doesn't matter if people got themselves killed because they happened to choose the winning side in a historic war. Those soldiers certainly didn't know what the consequences were going to be. They just followed their naive emotions and/or threats of violence from their governments.


[flagged]


This comment breaks HN's civility rule by being unduly personal. Please edit that kind of thing out of comments here.


> Roosevelt and Churchill and the societies and they lead were equivalent to those of Hitler, Stalin and Mao

Russia and China were on the same side as the US and UK in the second world war.

> Seriously, please learn some actual history (or at least don't spout the ignorance)

OK...

EDIT Not sure why this would be drive by down voted?


Yes, Stalin and Mao were at least enemies-of-our-enemies in WWII; and immediately after they became our direct enemies in the cold war (in which people died directly and in proxy wars, e.g., Korea, Vietnam).

My comment was not about one specific war, but about the general concept that some societies and ways of living are qualitatively and quantitatively better than others, and that people will willingly sign up to fight to preserve those societies, even knowing that being killed is a likely outcome.

As a simple quantitative measure, Google "Dictator Death Tolls", and you'll find Hitler in third place variously counted at 17-30 million, Stalin in 2nd at 23-40 million and Mao topping the charts at 60-78 Million -- people killed by their leadership.

As much as we complain about the inequities of our governments, every possible complaint utterly pales on contrast to those societies -- at least we can complain, or wear glasses, or be born into an unfavored family without being killed for it.

More to the point, when threatened with living under one of those regimes instead of ours, many sane people would eagerly sign up to fight, with full knowledge that they could die.

Signing up to fight for such a cause is considered noble far outside the bounds of Christianity cited by the GP, is the furthest thing possible from the "not knowing the consequences" and "following their naive emotions" cited by the GP, and the contempt with which the GP writes of those actions is simply wrong.


While I agree that it isn't a good idea to have a trade embargo of China because we don't like how they run their country, I will quibble with the idea that at least my grandfathers and great uncles didn't know what they chose to fight and, if necessary, die for.

" we in this island and in the British Empire will never lose our sense of comradeship with the French people. If we are now called upon to endure what they have suffered we shall emulate their courage, and if final victory rewards our toils they shall share the gains, aye. And freedom shall be restored to all.

We abate nothing of our just demands—Czechs, Poles, Norwegians, Dutch, Belgians, all who have joined their causes to our own shall be restored.

...the Battle of France is over ... the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire.

The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be freed and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands.

But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.

Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, This was their finest hour. "

This was Churchill, June 16, 1940, when it was not at all obvious that there was any way to win the war. My grandfathers and great uncles volunteered anyway, as did tens of thousands of others. They did not want to, but knew they had to. As Churchill said, it was '...let us brace ourselves to our duties...'.

As for China, it is our duty to show that there is another way to organize a society. Give them full exposure, through trade and visits. Then, as they figure things out, be there to help them through the process.


WW2 was an existential threat for Britain/Europe/"Christian civilization". I don't mean to diminish your forebears' bravery; I'd probably have been one of those men who was paralyzed with fear on the beach and never even fired a shot.

My point is just that facing an existential threat to your country, and by extension most of the people and places you've ever loved, is clear and highly motivating – and unusual for western countries in the last 60 years.

It's very different from the Korean War, Vietnam War, Falklands War, Gulf War, War in Afghanistan, etc. Those were not existential threats; they were mostly geopolitical posturing. I'm not making a statement on whether those were good or worthy wars (posturing can be necessary), but it's at least an arguable position that most casualties in those wars died "because delusional leaders sent them into battle," not because they were choosing to fight and die for some grand idea.


If you're going to cite WW2, remember that we were on the same side as China at the time. Well, part of China.

The surrounding point in this discussion is that if we're going to talk up the values of freedom and democracy we have to live them as well. That would include the US giving up its little gulag in Guantanamo and applying the rule of law there as well, among many other things.


We weren't exactly paragons of virtue in WWII. Women, people of colour, LGBT - if you were any of those, your freedoms were a pale reflection of those enjoyed by the broader society. However, as is now clear, the basic values of human dignity and our shared humanity allowed for processes that made things better for those, and other, communities. We have a way to go yet, but we are making progress.

The issue is not to let perfect become the enemy of better. Just because we fall short of an ideal of freedom does not mean we are therefore not in a free society. Just because our society in the WWII era was not as free as our own, does not mean it wasn't dramatically freer than the alternatives.

Even Churchill's promise to fight until all Europe was free was only half kept, for half of Europe fell behind an iron curtain until nearly fifty years after WWII. It was the right decision not to continue to war to free the other half of Europe. Time and exposure to another way to organize society did the job, without millions more dead or nuclear weapons.

It will be the same with China, with Cuba and even with North Korea. All we have to do is stand fast with our freedoms, and advance them where we can. Time and exposure will do the rest.


>Even Churchill's promise to fight until all Europe was free was only half kept, for half of Europe fell behind an iron curtain

And in the other half minorities such as homosexuals were persecuted. Including Alan Turing, who in WW2 helped break the ciphers of the German military.

>All we have to do is stand fast with our freedoms

Yes, our freedoms (see above)...


True, western democracy is limited and not what it should be.

However you are missing the bigger point, western democracies are almost always leading the way with more rights than any one else. For how homosexuals were treated in Germany see here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_homosexuals_in_...


"Don't get carried away with "dying for .. something", most often this is not true - most died because delusional leaders sent them into battle ... only after the fact their death got dressed into "honorable cause".."

There is a broad spectrum of (personal) causes that leads one to follow an order which inherently brings with it the risk of dying. Many deaths were of people that did not had any real choice other than avoiding prosecution (which sometimes involved certain death). Many where brain washed by propaganda. Maybe not that many actually trusted in their war masters if not understanding themselves what they are fighting (and dying) for. Some, however, might have had an understanding of the cause behind the fights they were involved in, and being seduced by pure ideas/ideals rolled on as true volunteers. It's not that nice to make this distinction when talking about the dead and for the sake of it they choose to elevate all the victims to the last category, of heroes (in ideals).


I think one condition for following orders is a lack of knowledge about what you get yourself into. You sign up to fight talibs, but end up driving a armored vehicle through a fanatic crowd, which throws there children in front of your car to stop you.

Not knowing what nightmares you sign up for, plus the group pressure of a replacement tribe/family, those are the ingredients cooked with in hells kitchen.


We are taught to idolise the military because it makes questioning the motives of government and the purpose of war difficult.


“Older men declare war. But it is youth that must fight and die.”


You can shoot at (some poor schmuck drafted by the other side)/the enemy or you can shoot at your draft board, your choice.


Vice-versa too. At times most US products were banned in Cuba, Iran, Red China, North Korea, etc. But you could usually get it on the Black Market for a price.


I've got family in China. They're just regular people trying to make in the world, same as me and most everyone else reading this. I'm no fan of the government there, but that's no reason to not work with the people who have little choice but to live under it.


I want to upvote this a hundred times. I've got family in China too and for fuck's sake they are just normal people. Sure, their government is a control freak, but tell me, how much do you like your government? At least theirs manages to build things! And who's about to elect Trump president?

The scary truth is that humans can't handle proper free speech, just like they can't handle guns. They should be able to but they can't. It would be nice if they could but they can't. Unless and until we embrace actual eugenics, and can weed out that crazy segment who always ruins everything, we can't have nice things. But we can't face that possibility, so we either get censorship and gun control or the good ol' USA massacre of the week and Trump.

I am not against democracy, but I think the current western liberalism, where it is perfectly OK to spread outright lies and counter-social messages on mass media in the name of "free speech", is doomed.

I've mentioned Trump twice and for good reason. I think Americans underestimate just how bad their political situation looks from the outside. Not only the gridlock in congress, but the United States, supposedly and self-appointedly the shining light of democracy for the entire world, is about to elect this idiotic, unqualified populist blowhard. It is really hard to make any kind of defense of that. The USA is currently and enthusiastically proving every bad thing the CPC said about it, free speech, and democracy in general, absolutely right.


The scary truth is that humans can't handle proper free speech

I will have to disagree here. In my view, freedoms require training to wield them correctly. Part of that training is social (and hence requires good role models), and part is educational (and requires a good education system). When either of those fail, you can expect problems (extremism in the former, and Trump in the latter case). But that doesn't mean the freedom itself is harmful or even unattainable, it just requires constant maintenance.

I think the current western liberalism, where it is perfectly OK to spread outright lies and counter-social messages on mass media in the name of "free speech", is doomed.

I think the current Chinese propaganda is equally doomed.


Since you mentioned about "training to wield them correctly". This is the state of China that majority people that are actively using online social networks are those who lack of control and responsibility.

The Greatest Firewall blocks those who are less educated and does not know how to use technologies for the good, block those who can be manipulated easily by other politicians.

A lot of techies in China are able to get through this, in fact, there are special routers for setting up the network linked with Google/Youtube/Facebook or you name it, it's privately giving consent by the government, they sometime installed in large firms to ensure that smarter people can use information for the good. Now, again think about the gun scenario comparing to the US.

From national point of view, blocking or censorship is not only about freedom. They are protecting citizen's privacy and information for the nation. If you are the president, of course you do not want majority of the citizen's information held by a US company that is very good at machine learning; you also want to think about how to protect or help to shape the technology culture slowly without being disrupted by foreign countries.

Mostly of the time that people talking about things went wrong, but once you are in that person's shoes with the limitations/stresses he/she's facing, you probably start to see the reasons.

And of course the wsj or any US media is going to troll it as an outsider. It's also under US's national interests.

At least that the news in China never troll about other countries. I rarely seen any, most of the time they are thinking about what's good in other countries (creativity, tech, startup).

Now, try run a startup with about 100 people and maintain a good culture there - scale it 100 Billion times and think about maintaining it - it's not an easy job. It's nice to observe it, I won't complaint about it.


True.

I had this totally naïve idea that EU could introduce higher tariffs and trade restrictions using a score based on political freedom, social security, etc, and the goal would be to tax but not remove too much of the cost incentive for trading.

Part (or most, or even all) of the money should then be used to fund education and healthcare back in the country the money came from, while avoiding too much political campaigning.

Maybe it's totally unrealistic, but I can't really see any other way of protecting the rights that we have fought for.

Interestingly, this would be virtually impossible in Russia as they more or less have legislated against "foreign agents" to minimise the opportunity for the west to meddle with their affairs.

It could work in China, and most likely in India and countries with large groups of poor people.

It would also be virtually unacceptable for USA, unless the social component was removed. As it is now, EU would have to increase the tariffs to compensate for the poor social security in US...


>I don't care much about what the Chinese do within their borders. The far more aggravating thing is that we tolerate China, choose to do business with Chinese companies and buy Chinese products. >Now that's fucked up, because we are trading our values, for which people freaking died to win, for short term convenience, also sending the message that it's OK as a country to violate basic human rights, as long as you're powerful enough. Money trumps everything, great thing to teach our kinds, kudos folks.

Well said. It's ridiculous we enforce labor and environmental laws in the US, then buy products from countries using slaves, sweatshops, and polluting without any regard. We sell out our ideals to save a few bucks.


To be fair the issue is a lot more nuanced than that. For example, because of that trade we live in a quite peaceful period. This income in China has been used to bring hundreds of millions of people out of absolute poverty and into a middle class - where people have some luxury money and aren't engaged only in sustenance farming. I think this is an extremely valuable and positive thing, would you really want to stop this trade and put hundreds of millions back into poverty in order to feel a little more morally correct?

Sure, it's not perfect, but it's a lot more complicated than you might think at first glance.

https://ourworldindata.org/world-poverty/#declining-global-p... - look at the second graph here, trade with China and other developing countries has simultaneously brought more people out of poverty than ever before.


> where people have some luxury money

The problem is that when autocratic state have new wealth (via taxing the people you are talking about) they almost always invade their neighbors or at least try to annex some land or settle an old dispute via force. Saddam with Kuwait, Russia with Ukraine, and China with the Spratly islands are obvious examples. It doesn't matter that some Chinese bureaucrat can afford an iPhone if it means we get world instability, war, and unneeded aggression in exchange. The West is probably looking at another shooting war with either of these countries sooner or later due to their unilateral aggression against our allies. Is a precious, precious iPhone worth that to you?

It seems like we lifted them out of poverty too quickly. They didn't develop democratic institutions, legitimate multiparty politics, a fair judiciary, human rights, international cooperation, etc. This is like handing a 15 year old a brand new Ferrari and acting surprised when he manages to crash it and kill someone.


Lifting 100's of millions of people out of subsistence farming levels of poverty is a massive good. Probably one of the greatest moral accomplishments of the last 100 years. Your comparison to a Chinese bureaucrat buying an iPhone trivializes that.

The idea of committing to a trade policy which would have left them living in extreme poverty sounds horrendously evil. Likewise, pulling trade now could do great harm.

If the worst interpretation of your fears comes to pass, and we get WWIII, then yes. Maybe you're right. However, can you back up your claim with enough certainty to justify harming so many people so greatly?


> The West is probably looking at another shooting war with either of these countries sooner or later due to their unilateral aggression against our allies.

And the alternative where we try to economically suppress them works so much better? It's not like the cold war didn't lead to it's own share of nail-biting episodes where we worried there would be full nuclear war.

> It seems like we lifted them out of poverty too quickly.

It's not that we lifted them out of poverty, it's that we took advantage of the favorable market forces present to our mutual benefit. If we didn't someone else would have, unless we tried to get widespread support for an embargo.

> This is like handing a 15 year old a brand new Ferrari and acting surprised when he manages to crash it and kill someone.

Or, you know, it could just be a nation of smart people and statesmen doing what they think is best for their country, based on their beliefs (which could include slow reform).

In any case, I'm sure your likening of China to an irresponsible child is useful, warranted, and even if widely believed, wouldn't in any way help to cause those shooting wars you are talking about. /s


"Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys." --P.J. O'Rourke

Such sentiments are not strictly limited to China. If a government acts like an irresponsible child, talks like an irresponsible child, and trades like an irresponsible child, it is probably finally ready to get drunk and have a drag race with the big boys down in the flood control culvert behind the high sch-err... U.N. building.

Many nations have done things that shock the conscience beyond the normal human capacity for moral outrage. Some of those things were based on sincere beliefs, and a desire to serve a greater good, as defined by those serving it.

I'm not even exactly certain what is required for a government to not act like a sociopathic, immature, hormone-crazed teenaged boy.


> wouldn't in any way help to cause those shooting wars you are talking about. /s

Yes, an offhand comment on HN is going to start a war.

There's a historic basis to my comment that autocratic systems with sudden influxes of cash become violent/agressive/annexing. The reality here is that's exactly what happened in Ukraine and in the Spartly's. I don't think you can just smart-ass dismiss that and whatever future conflicts we're in for. There's certainly a relationship here. Empowering autocrats has never worked well.

As far as the Cold War goes, isolation led to the downfall of the USSR and communism, in general, which was a horrific system. Those tactics certainly worked and freed millions out of tyranny. No nuclear war, no WWIII, etc. At worst a handful of proxy conflicts that had a death toll that matched perhaps one or two good sized WWII battles. Meanwhile, communism led to the deaths of almost 100m people via internal violence and mismanagement.

Sadly, HN has a "anyone but the US" bias to it and comments like your reflect a fairly biased and uncritical "China can do no wrong" attitude.


> > even if widely believed...

> Yes, an offhand comment on HN is going to start a war.

Of course not, but that's obviously not what I was saying.

> I don't think you can just smart-ass dismiss that and whatever future conflicts we're in for.

Where did I do that?

> As far as the Cold War goes, isolation led to the downfall of the USSR and communism

Do you think China has learned nothing from that? Do you see China as isolationist? I think equating China to the USSR and using the same tactics would be a grave mistake.

> HN has a "China can do no wrong" bias and your comment is further proof of that.

If you truly read my comment as evidence of of a pro-China stance, then I suggest you step back and take a critical look at your interpretation. I suspect it was colored by some assumed preconception of my stance, which my comment did very little to illustrate, so I'm at a loss to explain how you would know what it is.

All I did is question what I believed were overly simplistic explanations of global power dynamics and call out your equating of an entire nation to children.


Sure. A good thing. Or possibly a bad thing if we strengthen a tyranny that can’t find a path to freedom for its people. History will tell.

What I find most upsetting though is that much of this comes at the expense of the american middle class while the american upper class benefits. So less unrest in one country leads to more in another.

Personally, I wish values drove foreign policy more than business. And trade doesn’t equal peace. Connections lead to conflict. The USSR and US never fought despite the tensions of the cold war, while Europe, with all it’s interconnections and trade has blown apart in a world war twice in the last century.


> Europe, with all it’s interconnections and trade has blown apart in a world war twice in the last century.

That's a fair point. Hopefully the internet and easier travel helps mitigate future conflict.


I'd weigh lifting 100's of millions of people out of extreme poverty as much more morally important than avoiding stagnant American middle class wages.


But what if we could lift 100's of millions more if the american upper class contributed more. It's not that the task isn't worth doing but if that is the point, we should all be choosing to do it together.


>Well said. It's ridiculous we enforce labor and environmental laws in the US, then buy products from countries using slaves, sweatshops, and polluting without any regard. We sell out our ideals to save a few bucks.

Some politicians have suggested externality based import duties and I have to agree. We don't need import duties on goods from Germany or other countries with strong regulations, but companies in the USA cannot compete with third world countries with no labor or environmental regulations.


> The far more aggravating thing is that we tolerate China, choose to do business with Chinese companies and buy Chinese products.

A lot of people view trade, tourism and internet communications as a means of fostering diplomacy and preventing war.

I wouldn't say we have traded our values. Companies with bad work environments overseas aren't immune to negative perceptions from home.


What about North Korea? Why does it last there? Why don't they revolt? But actually, a more relevant question would be, why haven't they already? How much suffering can they take? I'm Romanian too. The censorship, oppression, and whatever other bad thing you might want to refer to, will last as long as the powers that be want it to last. When our "revolution" happened, people didn't even know what to think of it when they heard the news and really many thought it was a joke, and that's because they could not believe it was possible. There was no buildup that "took more than 40 years", a lot of people were satisfied with their lives, the ones that were not were quieted, and the rest were ignorant and didn't really care just like people now under pretty much any regime around the world. Hell, some older people that I have met even say they liked it better back then. Real population driven revolutions can't really happen anymore, if they ever could.


Dude, you're too pessimistic, much like all of our Romanian brethren :)

Not to glorify our own revolution, because there isn't much to glorify about it, but the spark triggering a revolution is never conscious and it's by definition a violent process, so of course people do not want revolutions. It's not like they were speaking about it on forums, it's not like they woke up one day and decided to have it. And yes, you'll always have people satisfied with their lives, or ignorant. Doesn't matter though and you know as well as I do that Radio Free Europe was the most popular radio station, as a form of civil unrest, in spite of people actually fearing the secret service for listening to it. What happened in Bucharest wasn't an isolated event. It started earlier with Brașov in 1986. It was bound to happen, trying to hide the events from Timișoara being just what broke the camel's back.

> some older people that I have met even say they liked it better back then

Old people always say that. It's an inherent bias in how our memory works. We tend to forget the bad and our attention deficit only grows as we get older.

Did you know that in the past years we've had the lowest levels of sickness and that global poverty is at an all times low? We are probably living the best years in history and when I'll be old I'll be able to say that as well and regret year 2016 and say to youngsters that "in my days not that many people died of hunger".


I kinda agree with him, I find it hard to believe revolutions can really happen in today's world, people are becoming very comfortable.


I know communism left a big scar on you, which is totally understandable. The Romanian Communist government was a puppet one imposed by Stalin's Red Army, which has no legitimacy anyway. That is not the case for China. The Chinese Communist Party has led the Chinese people to resist the Japanese invaders in World War II for eight years, which gave them the legitimacy back then. The economical progress they led in China for the past thirty years gave them the legitimacy now.

Maybe it's nowadays politically correct in the West to bash China. Though I do think you're being overly zealous here by promoting boycotting China economically. China has been making huge progresses for the past three decades both financially and socially. Hundreds of millions of Chinese peasants got out of poverty and started enjoy more freedom in education, living, migration and social upwardness. On that fact alone, China should be praised instead of being scolded on.


>The Chinese Communist Party has led the Chinese people to resist the Japanese invaders in World War II for eight years, which gave them the legitimacy back then.

that's not true, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Sino-Japanese_War , CCP didn't do anything really. later in civil war, CCP used some dirty tricks to win and took control of China.

>China has been making huge progresses for the past three decades both financially and socially. Hundreds of millions of Chinese peasants got out of poverty and started enjoy more freedom in education, living, migration and social upwardness. On that fact alone, China should be praised instead of being scolded on.

well, the real fact are that all economic progress are made by Chinese ordinary people selves rather than by CCP. CCP are a bunch of dirty gangsters.

one example:

due to poor supervision to food, we have to buy imported milk powder because milk powder in China would make babies sick. and we have to pay high tax for imported milk powder.


But some people might disagree:

http://www.voanews.com/content/china-expands-mass-re-educati...

http://www.tibetjustice.org/reports/children/detention/b.htm...

I won't pretend the US is peaches and roses, but our human rights abuses (CIA black sites, Guantanamo, etc) don't even hold a candle to many of the atrocities that happen in China. There simply isn't much of a comparison.


>Hundreds of millions of Chinese peasants got out of poverty and started enjoy more freedom in education, living, migration and social upwardness. On that fact alone, China should be praised instead of being scolded on.

In the west you'll find it common to think that Chinese Communism caused the famines and decades of failure and it was their integration of Western Capitalism and reduction of communism that led to their massive increase in industry and wealth.

Which is the same narrative you'll find for the falling of the USSR and Putin's magical rebuilding of Russia.

So many Westerners instead of praising Chinese communists for the success they have, they scold them for waiting so long and killing so many millions before _finally_ listening to what the westerners were saying a hundred years prior: private markets and private control of capital is the only way to build a modern industrious economy and lift subsistence farmers out of abject poverty at efficient scale.

I'm not here to bash China, I just want to express the common views and opinions that I hear on the subject.


Appreciated for your comments. Though statistically that is not very convincing: the ingredients of capitalism, i.e., market economy and democracy would lead to prosperity. We have more than two hundreds of countries on this globe, the most advanced ones are still the powers from the colonization era. In my humble opinion, those factors seem to be more of correlation than causation.


> In my humble opinion, those factors seem to be more of correlation than causation.

Considering that the most advanced economy in the world did not even exist at the onset of the colonization era (and did not catapult to its status until the past century), I think you're over-reaching!

>Though statistically that is not very convincing: the ingredients of capitalism, i.e., market economy and democracy would lead to prosperity

Really?

Can you name a single modern large scale society at all that experiences prosperity without market economy? I did not say 'democracy' -- this is an economic discussion of how capitalism, and not communism, creates prosperity. I struggle to find a non-market-economy communist system that creates mass prosperity.

We Americans sometimes look back to Boris Yeltsin's infamous trip to America in the late 1980's: http://blog.chron.com/thetexican/2014/04/when-boris-yeltsin-...

It wasn't correlation to Mr Yeltsin, whose faith in communism was destroyed by walking through an American grocery store: it was causation. “I think we have committed a crime against our people by making their standard of living so incomparably lower than that of the American" and I'm willing to bet there are those in China who agreed prior to the liberalization of the economy and the introduction of market capitalism.


> I did not say 'democracy' -- this is an economic discussion of how capitalism, and not communism, creates prosperity.

You're right on this one. I shouldn't have put words into your mouth by mentioning it.

> Can you name a single modern large scale society at all that experiences prosperity without market economy?

I think you does have a point. Though I would agree with a bit conservation. If we are talking about market economy itself, I consider it a necessary but not sufficient condition for economical prosperity.


Well put. I would further remark that this general debate is more a perspective of reformation versus revolution - which doesn't need to be tied to a capitalist/communist contrast.


The moment we stop talking to people we want to change, then we lose all hope of doing so.


Why would you want them to change? And change to become what? To become more like you? To me Western civilisation has this recurring feature to want other people to be like them. It was the case with proselytism, colonialism, etc.

I understand a will to change a threatening country, or to get rid of a really evil tyran like Pol Pot. But a country having a different level of censorship of the media is not, to me, a casus belli.

We can be proud of many parts of Western values and culture and even whish more people adopted them, but then it should be like with a friend with some weaknesses, you'll be more friendly and show by example how to handle things differently, instead of taking distances or lecturing constantly.

So either you use brute force, against a major threat against your people or a tyran, or you try to promote the soft way your best parts, by showing their good effect on your own society. In this case, with all the very worrying problems we have, I would understand other countries like China to be sceptical.

And by the way, China has already embrassed many of the good (hear: useful) parts of Western culture, like science and law. But it takes a lot of time to implement and get the positive results, around 50 years.


I don't even know how to respond to this. I was speaking generally of the desire to get along with others and work together towards a common positive relationship, not specifically of making China like the West.

The bit about China "embrassing" (I assume you mean embracing) the "useful" parts of Western culture is neither relevant to this discussion, nor particularly constructive; it comes off sounding defensive more than anything else.


You were right in tell GP that if you want to change a country you should continue talking. But what I was reacting to is the idea that other countries should be "improved", which always mean to follow Western's value and culture.

I've been living in China for over ten years, and I hope this admirable continent-sized country will never become like the USA or Europe. My wish for these people is that they continue to find their unique way to be happy.


I get the sense that we're talking about two different things. I'm talking about keeping dialogues open in an attempt to avoid xenophobia-driven dehumanization of another culture. You seem to be (and correct me if I'm wrong) talking just about protecting Chinese culture from Western influence.

Whether China needs to be improved or not, and who needs to do that, is actually irrelevant to this discussion. I just want to encourage people to work together instead of starting Cold Wars.


If a country has labor laws out of ostensible humanitarianism but then permits the sale of competing products made where no such laws exist, then it really isn't principled.


You're assuming that people everywhere value their working conditions equally. They don't. If you already have plenty of money for food, shelter and health care, then you can start worrying about workplace safety and comfort. Otherwise, you'll probably tolerate longer work hours if it's the only way to feed your family or care for your sick grandparents. Boycotting those countries is only going to make their population's more serious problems even worse.

If you really care about people, let them move into your comfortable safe country and share it with you. I mean all of them, not just the few highly educated and wealthy.


Human rights are rights for humans - not just a luxury of those with free time and money. If people can be coerced to waiving their rights, then the mechanism of oppression changes - not the oppression itself.

Second, boycotting isn't as effective as demands. When consumer bases set labor, environmental and other standards on imports, historically speaking, compliance follows.

Lastly, I'd welcome lots of immigrants. No problem. I want more of them.


I am not sure why you are conflating labor & environmental laws and human rights.


Because I think their the same thing and you do not - and that's a fascinating thing.

It's an interesting discussion about taxonomy, membership, identification, and language.

Broadly speaking if we are to define "human rights" as a "floor" of respectability that should be respected - different political leanings (e.g., neoliberalism, collectivist anarchism, libertarianism etc) paint their picture differently while at the first blush level, are all advocating for the same principles.

When rights becomes a question of membership and dynamics, the linear two-dimensional political narrative of left-right break down into a multi-dimensional set-membership identity.

I'd love to go into more details with you about it if you'd like to have an ongoing intellectual discussion.

You can hit me up on google chat at my username @ gmail or just email me if you want.


> as a country to violate basic human rights, as long as you're powerful enough

This hardly just applies to China though. I listened to a great talk by Tony Judt yesterday, this bit seems particularly relevant: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNE83HXfGXo&t=28m28s

What you experienced were people who know they were oppressed by other people who know they are oppressing. Which is bad, but it's still a visible prison you can break out of, or you can at least hate it while you're stuck in it (don't think there are no unbreakable prisons). The free fall that follows the death of critical thought is much more sinister IMHO. It feels like there is nothing happening, because there is no friction worth mentioning, but it's still free fall.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for standing up for principles and not taking crap from any nation over it. I just am not of aware of a major nation that could do it credibly, they would have to clean their own house first.


> Now that's fucked up, because we are trading our values, for which people freaking died to win, for short term convenience, also sending the message that it's OK as a country to violate basic human rights, as long as you're powerful enough.

It's... more complicated than that.

China has a rich cultural history of collectivism that extends back several millennia. Eastern values are not the same as western values -- something Americans especially struggle to grasp. For better or for worse, eastern cultures (and China especially) emphasize the collective (company/family/country) over the individual. So I wouldn't bank on that social dissent being as strong as it was in the former Soviet bloc.

The wild card here is what happens when an entire generation has to suffer because of the mistakes of their parents. That's the situation that is quickly looming in China -- they've had many years of strong growth on the back of a rapidly urbanizing population, but they have an aging population and have been below zero population growth for decades.

They may very well come to see their former leaders as corrupt and self-serving -- but any revolution will likely be slow and happen through established channels. That's the Chinese way; it's impossible to change direction quickly in a nation of 1.3 billion people. The harmony of the collective is valued over the needs of any individual, so while change may need to happen, it will happen in an orderly and controlled manner. Chinese leaders would privately admit that their country is not perfect, but that change in China happens more slowly than in the west. But ultimately I think they also believe that a society with more freedom and creativity is the only way to effectively compete with the western powers.

> Money trumps everything, great thing to teach our kinds, kudos folks.

Name a time in history when this has not been the case. The US won the cold war not because our democratic ideals were better or more just, but because capitalist competition is the only self-equilizing solution to the tragedy of the commons. Which is basically the same as saying "money trumps ideals".

In fact, human rights issues in the US only get solved when they become a threat to our economic interests. See desegregation, women's suffrage, the LGBT movement, etc. They only get addressed when American economic interests realized that being more inclusive leads to economic growth by creating more members of the consumer class. Unjust discrimination creates market space from which a potential competitor could gain a foothold, so it's a strategic advantage to not divide your customer base on any dimension other than market segments that align with your product portfolio.


We kind of have to keep China engaged economically to keep the threat of war down and reduce the desire of their leadership to look for conflict to deflect internal criticism. Its a bit much for them to close pandora's box but if the rest of the world jumps on the lid it can be done and the Chia vs World scenario is more saleable at home


I think after the collapse of any social system the hindsight would appear to show nothing but discontent. If the U.S. underwent the same social reordering that the former USSR did there would be a cultural tsunami of prescient signs that went tragically undiscussed due to the obviously blind and limiting social order.


Like, say, massive debt spikes both personal and federal, near-decade-long economic malaise, massive discontent with the political class resulting in the nomination of a total outsider by one party and the other party having a massive fight between the outsider and the establishment candidate that still isn't settled, massive discontent with the press, social unrest about race and inequality issues, significant rises in drug abuse and suicide in certain groups, and a wildly whiplashing set of social norms changing so fast even those who nominally agree with them can have a hard time keeping up with the official social norms for this week (which is very nearly not an exaggeration)?


>because we are trading our values

Just leaving this here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_censorship_in_the_Uni...


In my time in Saudi Arabia it seemed like propaganda worked well and people were generally happy - even those who were poorer - and saw western society as hyper competitive and immoral. (They were very kind to us Westerners, however)


What made you think anyone unhappy about the system would open up to you?


>Now that's fucked up, because we are trading our values

From the slave trade and colonialism, to the holocaust and 100s of periphery proxy wars, what would those be? The almighty dollar?


China's firewall is largely constructed to create technology transfer towards China.

This may be in the form of hindering sales for comapanies they may have interesting opportunities for investment, from sports shoes to embedded microchips, to financial products.

It is also part of a much greater Golden Shield network.

But a lot has changed over the past 5 years. A contrast of goals/objectives: the Golden Shield formerly largely about public security and media control, a network prided under the former premier (national harmony being the end-game), but now goals are much, much, more nationalistic at a strategic level across China.


> China's firewall is largely constructed to create technology transfer towards China.

That's been a huge effect of the GFW, but is there material indicating it was the original purpose? My understanding was that much of the explosion in Chinese censorship tech happened as a way to prevent social media from gaining control over the news cycle. (i.e., when a train wreck occurs, the Party prefers stick-to-the-facts news coverage over whose-to-blame social media mobs)


Original purpose? Multifaceted, but certainly not just internet focused, it was a part of a much bigger thing (Golden Shield) that involves submitting photocopies of IDs to get a mobile phone SIM to an urban alley-way with CCTV and a cartoon of a friendly cop pasted on the wall.

>when a train wreck occurs, the Party prefers stick-to-the-facts news coverage over whose-to-blame social media mobs

combating whose-to-blame scaremongering isn't in the GFW's scope, as in regarding blocking foreign access, but is in the grey area with the rest of Golden Shield, such as requiring ICP licences in order to host a website. Today, however, Golden Shield is pretty mature, high-speed train-wrecks being covered by diggers is generally accepted as not OK, and most of the action happens on WeChat anyway with gov't ID papers issued to get a SIM, therefore a number, therefore a WeChat account.

A huge amount of fraud happens on WeChat, despite these paperwork needs.


> a much bigger thing (Golden Shield) that involves submitting photocopies of IDs to get a mobile phone SIM

I can assure you this is not current Chinese policy.


>> a much bigger thing (Golden Shield) that involves submitting photocopies of IDs to get a mobile phone SIM

> I can assure you this is not current Chinese policy.

It is the law: to get a SIM card, must submit ID card scan or passport scan.


Last time I was in China (late 2014) I had to provide a photocopy of my Australian passport to obtain a China Mobile SIM. Maybe it's changed since then, but I certainly can't imagine them being any more liberal than Australia, where you are required to submit a driver's licence number or a similar level of identity verification in order to activate a prepaid SIM.

That said, I can't imagine it being too hard to bribe someone to get a SIM not linked to an ID if you really wanted...


You can easily buy a mobile SIM on the street without showing ID. No bribing involved.


In India too, you need ID card to get sim card. And your sim card is activated after verification. In west you don't need to? How does Security agencies collect data? India is quite free albeit there's a recent surge of fascism.


India is practically free, but technically not. We're hilariously stumbling into becoming a security state.

Its funny, even though it is so tragic.

I remember that you didn't need Govt ID to get a phone line, to enter an airport, or to get on a plane (you just needed the ticket hard copy).

I definitely remember a time when you didn't need Govt ID when you checked into a hotel! Now you do, and hotels have to keep copies of them.

There's been so many, many assaults on privacy in India, and no one to oppose it because Indian's inherently are fond of the idea of a parent state.

If its hard to believe a random person on the internet - consider that the Government of India recently argued that there is no right to Privacy in the constitution.

And Aadhar. Man, if you want to see a better example of "Not my Problem" and doublspeak, then look no further than our Biometric program.

Its like watching Kafka author history.


Kenya too. You have to register your SIM card in order for it to be activated. Registration involves a form of ID (passport/birth certificate)


Half a year ago in Shenzhen I did manage to buy a prepaid SIM card from a street vendor without showing any kind of identification whatsoever. I've heard about that law, and I know my friends had to show their passports to get SIM cards, but apparently the law isn't obeyed that much. Mind you - it wasn't some shady vendor, it was a random electronics store on a commercial street.


They threaten to shutdown your SIM eventually if they don't have an ID#/passport associated with it. But they are very bad about follow through.


I see. Well, it only had to last a month :).


You'd have to go multiple years for there to be any risk of shutdown at all. I've never even received a threat.


Speak of the devil:

http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/984988.shtml

It is like they come up every year and say: "we are really going to do this now."


The law, and how it is applied are 2 different things. Especially in an authoritarian state.


In the US, you don't need to give you passport/ID but a SSN is necessary if you want to finance it—which most people do. And that is the de-facto national identification number.

So while there are ways around it, most people are led to give that info up voluntarily.


This is an odd idea. I remember, after the explosions in Tianjin, the only place to find reasonably up-to-date information was on Chinese social media. The government wasn't saying much of anything, facts or blame-wise. Social media eventually sussed out (1) that there was massive negligence, which the government confirmed months later, and (2) one of the companies who was handling way more dangerous chemicals than it should have was operated by shadow-CEOs and may have been getting around regulations by being controlled by a former Tianjin dock safety manager. I still have no idea if the second one was ever proven, but I suspect it's true. And if censorship was meant to prevent blame-game stuff, there's no way so many people would have used social media to figure that out (on the other hand, this is one of those scenarios where the people and the government are generally in agreement -- the people who let that happen were never going to get any leniency from the government).


>when a train wreck occurs, the Party prefers stick-to-the-facts news coverage over whose-to-blame social media mobs

Why would you assume this, when far more self-interested motives seem obvious?


I don't subscribe to common western black and white views on US vs Chinese freedom, and in fact I am fairly paranoid about the US government overreach of power, however I don't see that Chinese-style internet censorship has any applicability to the US or European governments.

I'm far more concerned about the power exterted by increasingly large corporations who want extract as much rent from the network as possible. I'm also more concerned about covert government surveillance. But in terms of outright censorship, that will just piss off too many people for little gain. There's no competitive advantage to be gained the way there is for China.


Anecdote: On Omegle a while ago, I chat with a Chinese girl, all Chinese guys I met there were always anxious about how other people would see their country, so I proceed to explain that I grew up very fond of many things about China, martial arts, silk clothes, temples, food, pictural art, kanjis. The girl listens happily and then tells me 'you know, not everything in China is good, <this> <that> <this> ... ' Then 3 seconds blank. Then 'oh god .. god ... no' then left asking me to forget what she said, that her country is great and she loves it very much. Then quit.

I guess she was worried her messages would be logged and have consequences.


Seems more like you were successfully trolled.


Could be, but I spent a huge amount of time on Omegle, stats from 10K conversations, and that kind of troll was almost non existant. American teens trying to spot sex seekers (to leverage in positive or negative ways) = 70% of the users over a 9 month period. The rest were mostly bored cubicle workers. Chinese users had recurrent pattern: struggling to type, low english level, similar center of interests. That girl was very similar (except for the english level). Maybe you're right but it didn't feel like this at the time.


I don't subscribe to common western black and white views on US vs Chinese freedom

It's maybe, black and dark gray. US media and US spin interests can corruptly manipulate a lot. But I don't see how that sort of power makes the blunt repression of China any better.


Maybe it doesn't work. I've always wondered why, among so many long-ruling authoritarian regimes, China is almost the only one with such strict censorship. Yes there was the Arab Spring but look at Saudi Arabia, Russia, Belarus, Vietnam..., they don't ban Facebook yet the incumbents' rule do not face exceptionally greater challenge than China. Maybe all censorship does is to give the Communist Party is false sense of security. Maybe it's something else that's working and censorship is simply free-riding.


China don't have as much natural resources per citizen as Russia, don't have huge totalitarian sponsor next to like Belarus and don't have as much oil as Saudi Arabia. Never did any research on Vietnam so have no idea.

Reason why Russia regime still exist without heavy censorship is billions and billions of dollars burn to sustain level of consumption. Russian economy is nothing compared to China, but hey most of people there still able to earn more than average chinese and even more money dumped into Moscow (only city budget is $24B). So in past they just bought votes directly or indirectly instead of enforcing censorship.

But since oil prices are low and they run out of money there is more and more censorship appear. For instance more censorship-related laws adopted since 2014 than in 14 years prior that year.


Vietnam has mild censorship - the block the BBC unless you use a VPN - and the government isn't that unpopular with free health and education and 7% growth so they don't have to try that hard. You can still end up fired/imprisoned/deported if you do the wrong thing though.


Russia doesn't have direct censorship, however all mainstream media is nation-controlled. Also there is an internet censorship registry/banlist that blocks some of the opposition media for "exremism".


> Maybe it's something else that's working and censorship is simply free-riding.

Yup. I'm sure throwing protesters in prison without trial helps, along with kidnapping Hong Kong booksellers, etc.


This article fails to define what "works" means

Does censorship give China a better economy? Does it make people more happy? Safe?

Does censorship eradicate certain ideas? Does it prevent people from communicating domestically or internationally?

There's no data in the article that suggests any of this is true.


Works means "is technically feasible".

It doesn't matter if you think it's a good idea or not: the ruling class in China thinks it is. And any government who thinks it's a good idea in the future knows it's technically possible based on China's example.


Right, all they need to do is convince their population to abandon Facebook and use the government sanctioned social media. I'm sure that will go over well.


Agreed that the public won't abandon facebook.

But I don't understand what point you are making.


It keeps the Party in power. From the second sentence:

> preventing information harmful to the Communist Party from entering the country.


Does it? I'd say that has more to do with throwing protesters in prison for indefinite amounts of time with no trial.


So what about Tor and obfsproxy? Does it actually (still) work? If so, why don't more people use it?; if not, why not?

I can't easily find up-to-date information about this through Google - which I find odd, since China is such an important use case for Tor that I would expect them to maintain some sort of status page. Maybe the information is more readily available in Chinese...


Tor doesn't work most of the time. Not sure about obfsproxy. Here is some reasons why I think Tor is not successful:

+ GFW is very aggressive at detecting these traffic and is okay with false positive.

+ A very very large portion of the population lacks basic skill to setup Tor or similar tools. CS education is almost non-exist or useless if you are not a college student with CS major.

+ Doesn't have good mobile support, especially on iOS.

+ Slow and not stable. Those who know how to set these up, like myself, would probably prefer a more reliable tunnel, e.g. shadowsocks/cisco anyconnect.


Last year, obfsproxy was absolutely still effective in China. There are several comments here that "Tor doesn't work". Yes, vanilla Tor hasn't worked for years now. While it's true China has managed to block obfsproxy for short periods, the Tor developers are constantly release updates that circumvent the blocks.

Source: I've lived in China for 3 of the past 5 years, using Tor and VPNs everyday I was there.


I just got back from a few months in China. These services are definitely blocked through DPI. It's frustrating. It's also interesting what happens to your mind when you can't read what you'd like to, talk about what you'd like to, and revert the accepted status quo for everything.


While you were there, did you get a feel for whether people there would pay for a semi-reliable bridge through the firewall?


"Will they pay for freedom"? Seriously?


I thought it was a good question.

"Do people in China in general care enough about censorship to pay for access to uncensored internet?" doesn't have an explicitly obvious answer, does it?

They could be happy with their internet as is. They could be unhappy and willing to pay. They could be unhappy but unwilling/unable to pay.


I think there's a parallel here with how the FCC tries to censor certain words and images, but you can pay a premium to get them via non-public, historically illegal [1], means.

[1] https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/1468


westerners do; locals not so much.


The last I heard they were giving bridge addresses to friends within the country that were spreading them through their social networks (since china had blocked all the bridge addresses they were giving out online). That along with the obfuscation stuff was working.

China's deep packet inspection was pretty sophisticated though and getting worse (usually ramping up during political events). It'd be interesting to see an update, but I haven't seen a talk from Roger Dingledine or Jacob Appelbaum about it in a while.


b/c you're kinda missing the point of the firewall

First all 99% of the Chinese internet content is hosted domestically - so unless a Chinese person is fluent in english it's harder to access foreign information, and they have their own cat videos anyways

The goal really is to have no institutions that rival the government for organizing people and disseminating information. You can always get around the firewall, and news sites are actually accessible - even sometimes facebook will work from China. The system isn't perfect, but the authorities are happy if at the end of the day people don't have twitter/facebook/G+ accounts, they don't visit foreign sites regularly b/c they've been made unreliable, and they end up in domestic forums where things can be monitored and contained.

When authorities see the Arab Spring Twitter revolution they're probably thinking "yeaaahhh... that's exactly what we want to avoid. No foreign social media please"


The biggest barrier to the outside world is the language barrier. That's not just true for China.


When I was out there last year, I was able to use VPNs to access otherwise blocked services (e.g. Facebook, Google etc). My (British) friend who lives there is still able to use VPNs. He is based in Shenzhen, which has a thriving tech scene, so I guess they are more lax with blocking VPNs there. Nevertheless, he is moving to HK soon to escape some of the restrictions

It's quite weird having an android phone in China, since almost all the services are blocked.


Tor is not usable in China, simply because all of the entry point have been blocked by GFW.


obfs4-type Tor bridges should still work iirc? (https://bridges.torproject.org/bridges?transport=obfs4)

meek should also work in mainland China. See https://blog.torproject.org/blog/how-use-%E2%80%9Cmeek%E2%80...


From what I understand OpenVPN tunneled through stunnel works, but I haven't tried it myself.

Setting yourself up with your own private bridge might be another way to go.


Lots of VPNs work. For a while (maybe still), with proper internet speed even the Opera Developer Browser built in "VPN" worked, and worked faster than most normal VPNs.


You can censor by scarcity (China) or censor by overabundance of trivia (Western).

When Kardashian out weigth cultural news, PR of corps outweigth economical analysis, half baked tutorial replaces consistent tutorial, unproven science replaces science : you drown signal in noise.

How many Western citizens have read that the middle eastern wars are mainly about the top 4 weapon dealers (UK, USA, Fr, Russia) bribing locals (see #clintonmails & #panamapapers) in order to ensure the growth of their economy and the disposal of scarce resources (oil, Phosphate, Uranium, Copper, Gold)?

How many citizens knows that we are fueling education/health bubbles based on good intentions (NHS) without control (incompetence?) that results in counter productive results?

There are 2 ways to censor: cut the access to information (earth friendly solution) or hide the information in a haystack (resulting in 2-3% of global energy burned in spin doctoring).


The Chinese government does censor by overabundance of trivia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/50_Cent_Party . Do you have evidence that Western governments are doing similar things?



Very spot-on post. I don't have any facts or numbers though. But my gut feelings is that the percentage of people that survive the scarcity (China) or overabundance (West) are comparable.


Not surprising. And I doubt other country can do the same. Several factors makes China a unique case: 1. Massive domestic market, China along can have its own internet ecosystem, which is the fundamental reason why GFW can endure.

2.Conformist culture due to its Confucian tradition

3.Communist government has firm grasp of its power and stay vigilant to any sign or power that acts against it.


#1 trumps everything else. Try doing the same in a market the size of a typical European nation and you end up with an embarrassing digital backwater. Do it in a market the size of China and you can trail silicon valley by a few years at most, constantly gaining relative competitiveness as the global market of "online stuff" slows from wild, exiting exploration to establishment.

I suspect that #2 and #3 are far behind what I would put on #2, plain old language barrier, but I am surely no China expert.


The sad fact is most people do not care about political freedom as long as they feel that their economic situation is adequate.


It may work now, but I suspect in the longer term it could be very harmful. As with stocks, it is like getting short-term calmness for the price of blowing up in the future. Noise of internet freedom train society deal with rumors etc., that may be essential for survival.


I would argue that even without the Great Firewall, China starts isolated by the fact that its language isn't really shared by anybody else.


Nitpicking, but Mandarin Chinese is one of the official languages in Singapore (with English, Tamil, and Malay).

Also, there is an immense Chinese diaspora throughout the world (especially in neighbouring countries), of which many became multilingual and have access to other media and can still communicate back.


So is every single language on plant earth:

http://www.mapsofworld.com/images/World-Languages.jpg


The thing is, information is the weapon of the 21st century. We are already litigating the cold war in the 3 most popular courts: the olympics, the media, and financial markets.

We cooperate with China, but what will become obvious if a horrifying 1984 censorship scenario evolves more forecfully is that nations and powerbrokers have different information thay want buried/codified. So while China censors it's internet, there will be many places that actively promote (or at best do not dissuade) the content that China is burying.

Just as Russia publishes content the U.S. would prefer not to be published/ is critical of America. So Censorship does work as does fearmongering and threats of violence. However, even in China's situation (which is horrifying) where you can be killed for promoting information/speaking out about some things there will always be groups outside the region with the information and as it becomes scarce it becomes more powerful. Peacekeepers, activists, anti-chinese nationals and subversive governement agents all have incentive to work against chinese censorship, so censorship as a whole can not be successful hopefully as there will always be factions and these factions will gain the highest leverage disseminating the information that is the most policed and downright censored shit in their counterparties region.


    > In April, the U.S. government officially classified
    > it as a barrier to trade
Interested to see what happens if this gets taken up at the WTO.


> On the Sina Weibo microblogging site, his post was deleted by censors, and his newspaper soon afterward published an opinion piece defending the barrier and attacking Western media for hating it so much.

I'd love to read this piece, I'm genuinely curious on how the GFW can be seen as a positive thing for ordinary people because I really can't see it as defensible.


To play devil's advocate: The US does also engages in censorship. Non-citizens are heavily restricted in the kind of political lobbying and contributions that they are allowed to make. We can argue about the distinction between political contributions/lobbying vs speech, but let's examine the intent behind the US laws: to limit the influence that foreign countries/organizations can have on domestic politics.

One could credibly argue that Chinese censorship of the internet falls along the same vein. A completely open internet would immediately result in China being inundated by western perspectives and arguments. An inundation that would be disproportionate, simply due to the west's economic lead and online headstart. One can understand any non-western-aligned nation being concerned about its domestic politics being strongly influenced by the western-free-speech-megaphone.

Overall, I still think that internet censorship does more harm than good, but it's worth considering the above.


Why is it surprising that it works? It comes from strength as well as buy-in. People know its censored, but they accept the bargain.

In this case, I think Chinese buying the Han homogeneity helps in that there isn't an us vs them struggle. But rather an us vs the agitators mentality. And being nationalistic [affinity to the homeland] helps.

So long as people see the service provided by the government to be worth the deal, they'll put up with it. Just as we make an arguably similar, but obviously different bargain when we put up what some people call security theatre. We "put up with it" so long, in balance the government gives us an acceptable deal.

For China, where in a communist country you have daily labor riots or protests against corrupt officials, people buy into the case that with a scandalous press they, the population, by and large, could be worse off due to unrest and instability which could arguably threaten the viability of the CCP as well as the one nation notion.


FWIW, my personal experience says differently. I recently got back from a few months in China, and while I was there I had a conversation with a young man who was 100% convinced Tiananmen Square was a rumor started by anti government 'bad guys'.


Just curious, but did you talk to them in English or Mandarin? I've found that if I talk to locals in Mandarin, even if broken Mandarin, they are more willing to tell me the truth.

Whereas if I talk to them in English, they become defensive and think I'm criticizing them.


Think of a person of median intelligence. Now realize that half the population is dumber than that guy. That's who propaganda is intended for, not the Hacker News crowd (apologies to anyone on Hacker News with below median intelligence, you're welcome here too :) ). Same thing in China. The people who are easily convinced of things is who the propaganda is intended for and who the government wants to protect from foreign opinion.


Median might be about right - here in Austria we witnessed yesterday that almost 50% of the ppl fell for a rightwing wanna-be dictator running for presidency. And there wasn't even brainwashing involved, apart from ads and word of mouth.


Link to the actual report: https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-net/freedom-net-2015

Let's not kid ourselves, though. The US scored 19 and UK scored 24 (on the scale of 0-100, 0 being most free)

Censorship is alive and well in the West.


The criteria for censorship at the 20 points level - could be debated as - quite healthy criteria.

Criteria such as the government controlling online harassment is classed, rightly, as censorship. Political anarchy would be the reflection of 0 point score.

Is 0, 10, 20, even 30 or 40 points the optimum score: thats debatable. At the 80+ level, its really not debatable.


The metric saying 1/3 of the world faces heavy internet censorship seems large until you remember 1/5 of the world lives in China

China is one of two countries that doesn't have access to Facebook and Twitter. The other is Iran.

I'm not in love with FB or Twitter, but for tracking censorship, they are a useful measurement.


"The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it" -- John Gilmore.

Even back in the slashdot days I always thought this oft-repeated quote was more of a hopeful rallying cry than an actual statement of fact. And I think it's been clear for at least ten years that it's definitely not true.


I wouldn't say that... but what if you could block all the routes? That appears to be the case here....


The Chinese own China and can decide for themselves what is best for their country. But as an American living in China, I fear that some of what I see here can and will happen in America one day.


If you're locked in a kitchen, even though there is more than one choice of food are you free to decide what to eat? What if you was born there and don't really know all variety options you could have?

Centralized propaganda makes "freedom of choice" very controversial topic. Especially when its source has all the power to censor and prosecute.


You know, this is a great example. Let me continue the kitchen analogy.

Those of us born in the West are lead to think that being stuck in the kitchen sucks. That people stuck in the kitchen will suffer and/or be in a constant state of revolt and unhappiness. I know thats how I thought before I left (whether I realized it or not). Consequently we think that America is quite far from being stuck in the kitchen because things don't look remotely close to what we imagine being stuck looks like.

Let me tell you what's truly scary about China: the censorship, authoritarian rule, all the "stuck in the kitchen things" are a lot more palatable than we are lead to believe. The Americans have a cartoonish view of authoritarianism so-much-so that we will not recognize it on our own shores. That terrifies me and that's why I left my comment. I wish I had the words to explain this better.

I can't change China. Even if it was democratic I don't and shouldn't have a voice here. It is not my country. China belongs to the Chinese people, not to me. What I can say is that I don't want to see America copying China with respect to civil liberties.


> Let me tell you what's truly scary about China: the censorship, authoritarian rule, all the "stuck in the kitchen things" are a lot more palatable than we are lead to believe

China is livable for people so long as they do not criticize the government.

People who do so are often thrown in prison indefinitely without trial, and only released if they sign a form saying they will never protest again.


This article by Google's design ethicist shows how even in a free market world we end up with false freedoms. For example, if Facebook suggests posts from your friends, how do you know you have control of who you become friends with and interact with? How does Netflix's suggestions influence what movies you know about.

He shows that even in our free world we're still influenced by propaganda that makes us have a false sense of freedom of choice.

https://medium.com/@tristanharris/how-technology-hijacks-peo...


You're offering me a classic tu quoque response, aka "Guy A is deep in shit but guy B's boot has shit on it too therefore they're both in shit so A's problem with shit is kinda normal".

Yes, freedom always has restrictions, everywhere. But it does not always smell so suspicious. Facebook making some choices for you and Facebook being blocked completely for making it too easy to read unapproved opinions are very different levels of the problem.


The Chinese do not control China. The Chinese Communist Party controls China.


Of course, you can say this about every government. Americans do not control America. The American government controls America.


"The CPC is currently the world's second largest political party with a membership of 87.79 million as of 2015.

To join the party, an applicant must be 18 years of age, and must spend a year as a probationary member. In contrast to the past, when emphasis was placed on the applicants' ideological criteria, the current CPC stresses technical and educational qualifications."

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communist_Party_of_China


Sure; but you're not making a moral argument here right? That is, they can decide, but it's still objectively wrong.


I am a guest in this country. Irrespective of what I believe is right or unalienable it is not my place to insert myself into their politics.


Ever? I'm hesitant to invoke Godwin here, but do you agree that at least in boundary cases, it's morally permissible to directly force a change in the internal politics of another country?


Why would morals respect national borders?


If he's an American citizen, then he should just leave if things become really bad.


Wow. I wish if more Americans would think like that.


It's really odd when my Chinese friends go home and go "dark" on "free world" social media until they return. They usually get emails while in China, though.


I have wondered if there is a VPN in China so that you can see what China actually sees (the opposite is easy to find).

I would imagine such a service not to be very public. I suppose you could buy hosting service in China and do it yourself... or is that not even possible?

EDIT.. apparently there are now lots services that do this (I had looked a few years back).


They didn't tell you the most dangerous part: The TV box in everyone's home. It is far more powerful than the Great Fire Wall.

1. It's a part of the internet. More than a half internet traffics are video streams. 2. It's a bug 3. It can do End2End monitoring and filtering.


To everyone who hold the 'western value': do you know that one of the biggest jokes of your 'western value' is that you think it applies everywhere in the world in the same form, and you take it as a disguise and do harmful things to the people of other countries(of course, this is all done by the hands of politicians). You don't understand that there can be different values. So when you look at things from this perspective, you always think that the Chinese government is evil.

You put 'human rights' all day long beside your mouth, haha, but never really investigate if human rights in China really worse than western countries. US government criticizes the Chinese government for this all day long but never say nothing about their arabic friends. And Snowden is from US, right?

You have never had experience to truely live in a country of 1.4 billion people, let alone governing one. You don't understand how to unite people with such great quantity and diversity. You don't understand what chaos will come if everyone can purse his political dreams.

Western value emphasizes on the value of individuals, while in china we balance between individual and the whole nation. Interestingly, I want to use the word '集体(jiti)' in Chinese, but I can't find a suitable word in English, so I used nation. Maybe you never thought of that.

As to why CCP is blocking the internet? Because, the blocked sites contains values that is not really about freedom or human rights, instead that is like virus, that will do harm to our values and the interest our the Chinese people. For now, as a newborn ancient nation, our value is not strong enough yet. Your values will not bring Chinese people human rights and prosperity. No revolution can be done without being based on history, we have our tradition and our value. When it's powerful enough, enough that Chinese people won't be harmed by western politicians, that you are all convinced the world can have different values and still a harmony world. our value will be more open to the world.

To those who won't like to trade their values for Chinese goods, my advice: Don't Buy ANY Chinese Goods. We can see whose life will become tougher.

P.S.: As a Chinese, I have every means to access the 'free' internet(as anyone who really want in China) and know what's all about in it, know all the bad words about China and CCP and know most of them are not real. So I think censorship for now is a great idea for we Chinese to focus on forging a beautiful life for ourselves. for our people.


>You put 'human rights' all day long beside your mouth, haha, but never really investigate if human rights in China really worse than western countries. US government criticizes the Chinese government for this all day long but never say nothing about their arabic friends. And Snowden is from US, right?

But how exactly are we to investigate China? Can a western journalist (or indeed any journalist) travel freely around China with no minders? Can they interview people and freely publish their opinions without fear of any ill effects on those speaking?

Is uniting the country really what it wants anyhow (maybe a few people in Tibet or Xinjiang are not so enthusiastic as you?).

Your argument rests on "I'm pretty happy and hopefully everyone else is too" but you have no way at all of knowing that.


True investigation of a country requires a lot of time and effort, you have to live and feel the people here, reading reports will not give you a true understanding even it's based on facts. Unfortunately, statistically most western journalists now are extremely biased as it comes to politics. They are writing things for you to read, not for us. They will write things that you will understand and you will like, even if they tell lies. There are many examples of how western journalists made fake reports on Xizang(Tibet) and Xinjiang. That does a lot of harm to China's politics and diplomacy in the world. So if a foreigner wants freedom, he/she should prove to deserve it. I think now many foreigners in China get almost the same level of freedom as Chinese citizens.

As to uniting the country, in Chinese history, every time when China is united as a whole, people get better life. Once divided, wars come, that is a whole disaster to Chinese people. There is always a force in China to make the country unite, that will make the whole Chinese people's lives better. You see, even EU is uniting European countries, unite brings greater good, though not everyone of 1.4 billion understands it. Sorry, here, we can't let everyone shout his voice out.

As to "I'm pretty happy and hopefully everyone else is too", no I didn't say that. Actually, I'm not that happy, and everyone in China is not that happy. But you have to see what we are worrying about. I have traveled around the country and lived in many cities and in the countryside(I have many relatives there), and I have quite a few friends from Xinjiang and Xizang(Tibet) too. For now, if you don't live in deep mountains, your life quality will be good. Food good, cloth good, water and power supply good, hygiene condition good. But there is still a lot of improvements to go, we don't want merely good, we want fantastic. So we are all worried how to make more money, work harder get a better job, when can I buy my own dream flat, how to teach our children better, how to make our parents happy. I think worrying about these kinds of problems is much better than worrying about the problems of refugees in Syria.


I totally agree with you. Probably censorship is the least they worry about. Censorship is big because is's biased towards online user group.


You've pointed out some of the US's flaws, but pointing out that one's critic has flaws doesn't justify the shamelessly blunt repression that the Chinese government prides itself on.

If the perception is that US cultural imperialism is so strong that something as extreme as the Golden Shield is necessary, well, I don't buy it. Regardless, it'd be better to solve that problem itself (international corporations that prey on countries via neoliberalism). But the Golden Shield is more about the Chinese Communist Party maintaining power -- hence the drama around "Tiananmen" searches. The defense of the Golden Shield that's based on a criticism of Western influence seems like misdirection and, apparently, successful propaganda.


> As to why CCP is blocking the internet? Because, the blocked sites contains values that is not really about freedom or human rights, instead that is like virus, that will do harm to our values and the interest our the Chinese people.

Who defines what is in the best interest for the Chinese people?


If Chinese people start to argue about this, haha, then damn it, our lives are doomed. Deng Xiaoping has said: "Don't argue, just try it, just do it." China has made mistakes arguing, and the outcome is horrible.

However, there is something close to a common sense now, the best interest for Chinese people in the first 100 years of PRC is to lead all the Chinese people to live at least in moderate prosperity, to build a modern country.


and how do you "do harm" to values? Is harm synonymous with change?


Open discourse and debate are how new ideas emerge and either flourish or return to obscurity. The "chaos" you fear is the forge for the future.

Without advances in science, political thought, and technology, we will implode from over population, new diseases, lack of food, diminishing resources, and bottled up dissent fed by perceived injustices and those same diminishing resources.

With censorship you may be able to make everything appear quiet on the surface, however you are shaking the beer can and it only a matter of time before it ruptures.


Leiden University is founded in 1575 in The Netherlands, not in Germany


So by the looks of the picture halfway down the page the porn filter in the UK has also been removed because they are labeled as 'free'? or is porn not a part of (internet) freedom anymore?


Apparently there are many shades of 'free'

The UK scored 24 out of 100, 0 being the most free.


With Germany prosecuting people who download torrents, UK banning internet pornography and US manhunt against Edward Snowden and Assange, there is definitely more than one shade of free. The image of freedom is being shaped and tailored for everyone individually, it's a Brave New World out there.


What a good comparison to Berlin Wall that is. Never thought about it. Whenever I went to China the VPN-fight-with-GFW has always been a nightmare, and my Android phone could not get updated either as google is 100% blocked there.

On the other hand, in USA the is near 100% freedom including the internet, but that does have some side effects itself, e.g. nowadays any gender can get into any restroom depends on what he/she feels, that's when I hate "too many freedom", where a few forces their will on the majority public that is normally silent or staying-politically-correct, yes transgender does deserve their rights, but what about the rights for the 99.9% of us that are not transgenders?


Please educate yourself about what being transgender actually means.

To give you a rough idea: If you think that people should use the bathroom that matches their birth certificate, you should expect to meet these people in your bathroom (and yes, I am assuming that you are male):

http://www.gardenstateequality.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/0...

http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/695/cpsprodpb/10BA6/production/...

https://d1j2diro5xke84.cloudfront.net/photo-articles/feature...

http://womenofrubies.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Geraldin...


the key is not about transgender itself, it's about the law, who defines you can be a transgender at will based on what's in your mind when you reach the restroom door, that means any man can get into women's restroom and vice versa any time.

I'm sure bad thing will happen due to this rule directly.

Some identity card might mitigate this situation, of course it will not get passed as it will be yet another discrimination.


> I'm sure bad thing will happen due to this rule directly.

Like what?

> Some identity card might mitigate this situation, of course it will not get passed as it will be yet another discrimination.

So you would prefer that you cannot go to the toilet without showing ID?


> what about the rights for the 99.9% of us that are not transgenders?

Well? What about them? What exactly is being done to their rights?


> China has achieved this. It can communicate with the outside world, meanwhile Western opinion cannot easily penetrate as ideological tools

Media is powerful. And even in the US, most of us self-censor our news (liberal vs conservative media) to the point where we're largely reading only views we agree on (HN is no different in that regard). I always find it amusing that we can all read the same news with different conclusions and come out thinking that we're right all the time.

A lot of people assume that people in China are unaffected by all the censorship, but even if they're aware of it, I wonder if censorship in China actually reduces cognitive dissonance at this point, and it's actually more agreeable to read censored news than not. Much like advertising or the opinions of our friends/family, ideas can be subtle but extremely influencing.


When I'm in Russia, I find the state-controlled media surprisingly critical of government policy and very outward looking. They are clearly ignoring the elephant in the room: the country being an ungovernable pool of corruption that can only be kept together by instilling nationalism and foreign threats and an authoritarian leader, but then again, it's not like US media are really asking critical questions. With or without free press, no one wants to hear that they're in a mess. It's much nicer to think that everything is good, but the evil-doers are trying to ruin it.


The US media as a whole may not be asking critical questions, but that's not the point of free press. The fact is that the US media is free to ask critical questions, and therefore some, though not all, of the media ask critical questions.

Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.


Free to still allows another way to allow the powerful to control and manipulate.

In order to truly be a free system the system has to be fair as well, which means more income equality in addition to a free press system.

If money controls the "free" press and money distribution is heavily skewed, then it's not really a free press. This is how the US system works.


Bingo. I keep seeing the US chatter being about boo scary government, but then turn right round and supplicate themselves to the big US brands as some kind of deities of freedom.

fuck that shit. Every large org is a problem, as it will develop a internal culture and world view.

when you have corporations existing in the world that has bigger revenue streams than nations, it should bring pause for thought.


No it doesn't have to. Stop moving the goalposts. The US has a free press, and under no definition does free necessarily require fair. It would be better if it had a fair press, but it is not necessary for freedom.

You're again letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.


>most of us self-censor our news (liberal vs conservative media) to the point where we're largely reading only views we agree on (HN is no different in that regard).

I wouldn't call what happens on HN self censorship. HN is heavily censored. One says things the authorities here agree with or one's posts are down voted off the board. New users don't have the ability to down vote. Sometimes user?id=dang steps in and deletes posts personally.


> we're largely reading only views we agree on [...], all read the same news with different conclusions and come out thinking that we're right all the time.

If not the premise, this is at the very least a nasty side effect of Twitter: users choose who to follow, and the overwhelming majority follow people they mostly find themselves in agreement with.

IOW Twitter is a self-satisfying echo chamber.


There're a lot of valuable points in this topic's comments.

I'd like to add one more which has been ignored: the GFW/Golden Shield was built to uphold the central government's authority over other provinces.

One-to-many propaganda is the most important leverage for Beijing to suppress provincial rivals.

And I assert the same propaganda leverage applys to the relationship between Washington D.C./Newyork and other states in the U.S. as well as the relationship between the U.S. and its allies.

Censoring/manipulating the internet is not merely for silencing individuals.


I'm not so sure that countries will be all that enthused to follow China's example. Aside from the technical and infrastructure costs, it's evident that they're using a huge amount of human manpower. A lot of countries don't have the knowhow or billions to do it.

At this point, I suspect the lesson will be to block all sites except those that force people to use their real names, and arrest them if they say something unapproved. Intimidation is pretty cheap.


There would not be a hundred billion dollar ad industry if propaganda didn't work. We wouldn't run multi-million dollar presidential campaigns if propaganda didn't work. The whole field of social psychology and public relations would be a useless exercise if propaganda didn't work. This is the fundamental problem with democracy: people are easily influenced.

The antecedents of the current Chinese communist party, the Bolsheviks knew this and they decided that the inner party must be the vanguard of the proletariat in order to prevent the proletariat from being easily led astray by the faith of the masses in the monarchs. Of course, they were wrong, for different reasons, but objective truth is a hard thing and often a weak voice amid the bullhorns blasting propaganda.

Anyone interested in this topic should watch the great documentary "The Century Of The Self"[1] that goes into the history of the public relations industry and mass persuasion in general.

[1] http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2d29tf_the-century-of-the-...


> This is the fundamental problem with democracy: people are easily influenced

That's not a problem with democracy. It's how people learn. We learn something and form an opinion about it.

The problem comes when only certain media sources are allowed. In that case, it's harder for people to discuss alternate viewpoints


No, the problem isn't when only certain media sources are allowed - honestly, the problem is when any media sources are allowed at all. Frankly, I think Amercians are as deceived by propaganda as the Chinese. Did we somehow forget in this thread that in western press, one can rarely find an article that isn't full of bullshit? Even if the reasons differ (western media do this for profit), the end result is the same.


> honestly, the problem is when any media sources are allowed at all

Lol. Yes let's just stop all people from communicating. That will solve everything.

> in western press, one can rarely find an article that isn't full of bullshit

There's plenty of good reporting in the West. The way to get informed is to read many viewpoints and form your own opinion. Stopping all non-government press would be terrible for a country's education, economic development, and general happiness.


A vast majority of people do not have the time to do any of that, simple as that.

And the mainstream press is not to be counted on the good reporting side of things so while good reporting is out there, it is not accessible to the mass. That being the reason why good reporting still exists, because in the grand scheme of things, it does not matter.


> A vast majority of people do not have the time to do any of that

A quality education is not spoon fed. It is the responsibility of the individual to educate him or herself. Making media available is only half of the equation


> "A quality education is not spoon fed."

It can be, you just have to be picky about the spoons. It's also useful to avoid relying on a single source of information, a diet of opposing views is healthy.

Self-directed education is probably the best overall, but nobody has time to keep up with everything going on in the world, at some point you have to find trustworthy news sources if you want to be aware of activity outside of your main interests.


> nobody has time to keep up with everything going on in the world

Exactly. Self directed education is as much about ignoring information you don't need as it is about absorbing information.

> at some point you have to find trustworthy news sources if you want to be aware of activity outside of your main interests

At many points we need to re-examine already-trusted news sources. For example, the Discovery Channel which lost its ability to be scientific.

To hear even more different perspectives, learn a foreign language so you can read their news or talk to foreigners.


> "Exactly. Self directed education is as much about ignoring information you don't need as it is about absorbing information."

Not everything that you're interested in will end up covering the most important new developments of the day. For example, if you spend most of your self-directed learning focused on learning about physics, you may miss news related to the economy, and it could turn out that there's an important event related to the economy that you should be aware of. In such cases, you will be relying on the expertise of others in the field.

Speaking generally, it's healthy to have a passing interest in many things, as long as you can also acknowledge that your understanding of things you don't spend a lot of time on is likely to be limited.


I agree with all that. I think we're both being picky about each other's words, or we're both not. You pick, or I will.


A Soviet émigré (who worked for me) was baffled by American politics. I explained that while the Soviets tightly controlled information, we Americans overwhelm and distract. Different strategies, same results.


Is this Washington Post article "full of bullshit"?


There certainly is propaganda masquerading as news in America (and other Western nations), and it's absolutely true that some people are deceived by this. However, there is also a wide variety of media, and it's certainly possible to find articles that are well-developed and not "full of bullshit".

(I imagine there are also ways of getting information beyond the curated "official news" in China; not living there, I'm not aware of the ways, of course. Perhaps, in China, you have to seek? In America, you do the opposite, you have to filter.)


>However, there is also a wide variety of media

By "wide variety" you mean those 6 corporations/oligarchies, many of which have been owned by the same families for decades, even centuries (i.e. Hearst)? The "variety" is just targeted marketing. For example, the communications chief at Time Warner (CNN's parent) and the CEO at News Corp (Fox News' parent) are "close confidants" who worked together for 11+ years, even though CNN is often considered "left" while Fox is "right".

http://www.businessinsider.com/these-6-corporations-control-...


Yes, this is why one of the first medias you should "filter" is television news for this reason. I find US TV news (broadly speaking) fairly low quality to be honest. I also think US television news in particular is where you will find the strongest direct links between media and political figures.

If you look beyond TV, you'll find a fair selection of weekly-to-monthly magazines (and even a few independent papers) available, in addition to some foreign publications that are readily available. Honestly, just as an example, I'm looking at the Pulitzer Prize winners, and I'm not seeing too many owned by those 6 corporations / oligarchies mentioned in the Business Insider article. Sure there are "big national" papers outside the big 6 (NY Times, Boston Globe, etc.) that win, of course, but even some smaller regional papers with smaller independent ownership win their fair share.

Social / web media in the US allows instant links to this ecosystem, if you want. And, at the moment, this seems to be free of the mass censorship type efforts China employs. To be honest, I bet in certain demographics, more people get news from Google / Facebook / Reddit / etc. than anywhere else.

That's the good news. The bad news is that portions of the social web are flooded with a lot of low-quality "clickbait" that is more populist. Propaganda? Perhaps sometimes. If not, it's still annoying either way. This you have to filter as well.


> I think Amercians are as deceived by propaganda as the Chinese.

The best video on this topic is this fake North Korean mockumentary called "Propaganda" : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tLK449NdmA

Just as the Western world see Asian regimes, here's a good mirror back at them.


even the wiki entry on Edward Bernays is very interesting :D

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Bernays


Is news.ycombinator.com visible in China?


> VPN Software is pretty simple

Can someone explain why VPNs are "simple"? What do they mean by simple?


They mean easy to detect and disconnect.


> VPN software is simple

Can someone explain why VPN software is "simple"? I thought it encrypted your data so they cannot be inspected, plus if you tunnel over the HTTP/HTTPS ports how can VPN traffic be separated out from "regular" traffic?


Because to establish the tunnel, you need to send some "handshake" packets to the server. Those packets are not encrypted and can be easily identified and dropped.


Which is why `shadowsocks` has become popular to bypass the GFW: it has no such handshake phase and hence cannot be easily identified.


...and when GFW has trouble stopping `shadowsocks`, it threatens the author of the software. GFW is not only the technology, which is easy to bypass, but also the system that average citizen cannot escape.


>if you tunnel over the HTTP/HTTPS ports how can VPN traffic be separated out from "regular" traffic? it can't. that's why openvpn doesn't work in China but openvpn tunneled over stunnel (TLS proxy for arbitrary TCP streams) does.


Does it?


You can try to as them about tank man

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tank_Man


I, as well as my parents, my grandparents, and many other Chinese, know about the incident, but we do not necessarily agree with the Western media's opinions on it. After all, our parents were the ones that witnessed it, and they should have a better understanding of what really happened.

You can read this article by Western media to get a different perspective: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/chinas-leader-talks-to-60-minute...


I'm pretty sure that all but a very few of them watched it on TV just like everyone else did. Well, not exactly like everyone else did - a lot later, a lot shorter, and edited and presented by the tank.

edit: I'm overestimating Chinese media freedom here. Furtive word of mouth and descriptions from people who have travelled outside of China are probably a more accurate way that Chinese people have learned about this facet of their own history - am I right?


You are right. It's good to get opinions from people who are living abroad. But I would be cautious over the recounts of the "Chinese dissidents" who are expelled or fled from China.

They are more likely to be motivated to give a biased recount against the government as a way of expressing their resentment with the government. They also often have supports from people/organizations who are eager to find ways to paint Chinese government black (for whatever reason they might have). (Think the situation of Snowden)


>After all, our parents were the ones that witnessed it, and they should have a better understanding of what really happened.

Why? Were they everywhere? Did they witness everything? Do they remember perfectly?

Edit: Typo


> Why? Where they everywhere?

They where [cis] not everywhere, but the incident was pretty widespread and every major city was having its "gathering". (Yes, western media does not care about that but that was what happened as they recounted). There is no way that someone living a major city did not know about it.

> Did they witness everything?

Regarding the actual facts, people have friends or colleagues who were working in Beijing so they could discuss it privately.

> Do they remember perfectly?

They don't have photographic memory but I am sure an incident like this would be memorable.


The 1989 incident is not secret here in China. Almost everyone I have come contact with know it, and most of them do not know how to bypass the GFW. But of course you cannot talk about it in the public.


Remember Edward Snowden?


China is just making real the wet dreams of RIAA and MPAA executives.

It is coming in the west too - for copyright, hate speech, terrorism, child porn - the internet will be as tightly locked here too. The fact that so much of it is already a walled garden makes it easier. Remove the web browser from the iDevices and you have a very compelling ecosystem for any dictatorship. It may take 50 years more, but the trends are unmistakable.

We need next generation of communication networks. That make laugh of national sovereignty. I think google's project loon and the likes are a good way. Fill a country sky with relaying stations and the government will make itself broke trying to take them down.

More

Applications are open for YC Summer 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: