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CCP’s Online Offensive Has Chinese Netizens In Retreat

Protests in China

An essay in Global Voices points to an alarming drop of critical posts, including political commentary, in China’s social media during the past three months. The first part of the essay paraphrases Zhu Huaxin, director of the Peoples’ Daily Public Opinion Monitoring Unit announcing at a recent China Internet Media Forum that this was a direct result of a new offensive to win the ideological battle launched by Chinese Communist Party (CCP). He said the CCP had succeeded in persuading online opinion leaders and celebrities to keep to the seven-point self-censorship guideline that makes them exercise more restraint.

“The report shows that the CCP has successfully maintained a dominant position in the online public sphere since the battle began. Zhu explained in his presentation that over the past two months, on leading social media platforms, the total number of messages posted by state-controlled media outlets and government branches have well out-numbered messages posted by ‘public opinion leaders’ or those who use online platforms simply to share their own personal views,” writes Oiwan Lam, a freelance researcher in her essay.
The writer acknowledges the truth of Zhu’s claim but points out that not only is there a fall in the number of comments critical of CCP and the State, but a drop in the number of original postings overall. Oiwan Lam points to online posts of recent natural disasters, which is usually the battleground of critics who raise issues of shoddy government infrastructure that exacerbates the effect of the disaster on communities as well shortcomings in emergency responses that is a direct an outcome of inefficient or indifferent local political functionaries.
“There also appears to be a drop in reporting on natural disasters, an issue that has been sensitive for the Chinese government in the past. While rainstorms and flooding in Beijing last July generated a flurry of online reports and commentary, some of which criticized government relief efforts, floods in Yuyao in October generated far fewer reports. While 60% of citizen posts on the Beijing rainstorms contained some amount of subjective commentary, only 15% of posts on Yuyao floods included subjective remarks,” said Oiwan Lam.
Oiwan Lam however concludes by drawing a reference to the recent explosions in Beijing and Shanxi could be a result of people unable to express dissent through democratic means.
“The CCP may have won a battle in blocking critical opinions from spreading online. However, when people cannot find a way to release their anger towards injustice, they will find another outlet. The recent bombing incidents in Beijing and Shanxi may indicate the emerging of another battlefield, one in which everyone will lose.”
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Southeast Asia: Expanding Economies, But Stifled Media

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An article in Global Voices Online reviews briefly media freedom in certain Southeast Asian countries. Titled ‘Dictatorships Are Gone, But Censorship Hangs On,’ it highlights continuing media repression in some countries in the region despite their reputation for rapid economic expansion.
There is a school of thought that expanding economies like in the ASEAN countries with relatively equitable distribution of wealth strengthens the middle classes. The middle class in turn demands political freedom and other fundamental rights. While the economic upturn in the region did fuel this process to some extent, as the author Mong Palatino says, there are certain sectors where the old ways remain. 
“Both off and online, censorship is still enforced in several countries through the use of draconian laws and strict media regulation. Media groups have consistently decried certain controversial laws and regulations as tools of media repression in Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, and Myanmar,” he writes
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