The internet has become the main battlefield of public opinion management*), and it is here that the complicated nature of China within itself and in its external relations are concentrating, where historical and current complaints and demands are forced into one another, and from which to draw clear conclusions is not easy.
[Main link: http://opinion.huanqiu.com/roll/2011-03/1587315.html – this post is a translation of a Huanqiu Shibao editorial of March 25. Original title: “The Internet concentrates so much Complexity – 互联网浓缩了太多复杂性“. Links added during translation – JR]
The cause for this is that the internet’s growth and design corresponds directly with the West’s political system and social ground, it amounts to the Western cultural shape being pasted into China, and it necessarily leads to friction with China’s social realities. This is a process of mutual influence and compromise, and occasional confrontation is inevitable.
Recently, the West has incessantly criticized the administration of the Chinese internet as “severe”, expecting that the internet would keep the “natural shape” of a Western environment. The West made that criticism against many non-Western countries, and some small countries abandoned their efforts of “localizing” the internet (一些小国放弃了互联网“本国化”的努力) which actually means that they accepted their own countries’ “natural transformation process” by Western politics and culture.
China is the most likely country to connect to the international internet, but to rival, at the same time, the “Western authority” hidden in the internet. China’s strength and opening puts both China and the international internet into a position where they need each other, and complete confrontation and the domination of one side over the other are unthinkable. A fusion, even if with frictions and confrontations, is the path to follow.
The internet brought China an abundance of advantages, and that it grew so rapidly in China demonstrates that Chinese and Western societies have much in common, much more than people believed in the past. But the internet demand that China should, in the twinkling of an eye, change the things which makes its society different from Western societies aren’t feasible. Some rules of the international internet are bound to be changed. This is just natural, it is the innate requirement for the safety of China’s society, but this has been politicized within the international public opinion (这是再自然不过的事情，是中国社会安全的本能要求，但它在国际舆论中被政治化了)**). In fact, the internet’s own rules aren’t fully implemented in Western countries either. All countries will pursue certain “revisionist policies” in accordance with their countries’ particular situations, and carry out certain supervisions and administration.
China’s biggest problem is that because of channels of social expression which weren’t uninhibited in the past, the internet suddenly aggregated a bulk of opinions and grievances, fractured the social composure of the past, and compelled society to take steps concerning the issue of democracy hastily. Also, the internet, and especially Weibo, provided a convenient channel to disseminate rumors and to assemble illegal street politics***) (街头政治) which constitute immediate disturbances to China’s social stability.
Over the past few years, Chinese society has shown a strong ability to adapt, and it showed resilience. Some resolute regulatory measures on the internet took place at certain times in areas where turbulences occured. These temporary measures aren’t deemed “ideal” by anyone, but are the price of China connecting to the internet, and to find methods which can replace these crude measures belong to the most important and also most urgent tasks of Chinese social administration (中国社会治理最重要、也最急迫的几个课题之一).
China needs the internet; it also needs social stability, and the two [needs] have much more in common, than frictions. We must expand the two [needs’] common ground, but on the other hand, we can’t expect to reconcile these two if the West dominates the internet technology.
China’s internet users should understand the country’s difficult position, faced because of cultural weaknesses (文化弱势), and from a height [perspective] of integral national interest (从民族整体利益的高度), they should tolerate supervision and administration. China’s cultural elites should do more communication and explanatory work between supervisional and administrative levels, and at least, their words and deeds shouldn’t aggravate society’s misunderstandings of the internet’s control and supervision.
Two of the latest comments
“The article explains it very clearly – in the past, there were complaints, but no channels. Now that there is a channel, you see all the nationwide complaints at once (文章解释的很清楚，以前即使有诉求，但没渠道，现在有渠道了，一看原来全国人民都有诉求).” [2011-03-26 09:49]
“If you believe you are weak, what’s the first step? It’s to learn, to take a leaf out of someone elses’s book, and to discover other peoples’ strengths. But that is something you can’t do without an open attitude. (如果认为自己是弱势，那么第一步是什么？是去学习，去模仿，去发现别人的强。这是没要有开放的心态就做不到的。)” [2011-03-26 12:47]
More Huanqiu Comments / Updates
The internet is a double-edged sword which praises you at times, but also curses you; protects you at times, but also unmasks you; which helps accomplishments at times, but also ruins you! (互联网是把双刃剑，歌颂了你，也诅咒了你，保护了你，也揭露了你，成全了你，也毁灭了你！) [2011-03-27 09:30]
The internet is a product of human technological development and application, and that’s a natural thing. We, however, are so anxious, discuss things in such a complicated way, and are struck with horror. That is a big problem in itself (我们却有这么多担心，谈得这么复杂，惊心动魄，这本身就是一个很大的问题。). [2011-03-27 11:46]
H/t to the China Digital Times which brought its readers’ attention to the article’s conclusion, i. e. its last paragraph.
*) Besides Chinese opinion management (中国舆论管), there is also social management, a concept which needed to be improved, according to party and state chairman Hu Jintao on February 19, the improved implementation of which was the topic of a speech by Zhou Yongkang to local cadres assembled in Beijing on February 20, and to which Wu Bangguo, chairman and party secretary of the National People’s Congress’ standing committee, returned on March 10.
**) Mark Anthony Jones died more than two years ago. I sometimes feel tempted to translate 舆论 (yúlùn, translated here as public opinion) as “discourse”, a term he went with through thick and thin, even if its usefulness was occasionally challenged.
***) The Dictall dictionary, apparently run by sina.com, provides translations, sample sentences, and context, such as these:
“街头政治 — 1. Since the 1990s,the “color revolution” broke out successively in Georgia,Ukraine,and Kyrgyzstan under the influence of the United States to expand its hegemony to Asia-Europe strategic space in terms of ‘promoting democracy’ and ‘street politics’ and consequently,they established ‘pro-US governments’.
20世纪90年代以来,美国为了扩大自己的霸权,以 `推进民主’ 为战略口号,利用 `街头政治’ 的形式,使格鲁吉亚、乌克兰、吉尔吉斯斯坦等相继爆发了`颜色革命’,成功的建立了`亲美’ 政权’。“
How Chinese Media become Themselves again, March 25, 2011