Senior Chinese official Lu Wei has made news this week by assuring the world that there is no censorship in China. He should know, Lu is the chief censor in China. If you cannot believe a government censor, who can you believe?
What is most striking about the interview with Lu is the Orwellian doublespeak that he used with absolute comfort and no apparent evidence of embarrassment or self-awareness. Lu insisted (in response to a CNN reporter) that “It is a misuse of words if you say ‘content censorship.’ But no censorship does not mean there is no management. The Chinese government learnt how to manage the internet from Western developed countries, we have not learnt enough yet.”
That “management” however concerns blocking those that Lu and his censors consider unfriendly because he insists that China “has the right to choose friends.” So it is not censorship just de-friending on a global scale. Lu said “As for who comes to my home, indeed I have to choose [to make sure] those who come are friends. We don’t welcome those who earn China’s money, take China’s market, and then slander China.” Of course, he is choosing for all Chinese people not his own computer in maintaining the Great Firewall of China.
Lu is the smiling face of Chinese authoritarian rule. This utter nonsense is the foundation for his system of repression and yet he is wined and dined through the world by countries and businesses eager to enter the Chinese market on his terms.
The greatest danger however is the growing calls for regulation and censorship in the West to address extremist sites and messages. As discussed earlier on PBS, those proposals can resonate with many of us but they often leave the question of definition dangerously undefined in asking for greater government intervention.