The Nine Ways China Blocks American Media

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In China this week, if you wanted to watch news of Liu Xiaobo, the now famous Chinese dissident and democracy advocate who won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, you could. The Chinese government is interrupting news broadcasts of Xiaobo’s award. Foreign television networks such as CNN and the BBC go dark for several minutes every time the topic is broadcast.

Yet one could get around these restrictions without too much difficulty. Even though the government blocks Chinese people from accessing YouTube, most observers acknowledge that one could skirt the barrier with a modicum of technological knowhow. The government is perfectly aware of this.

Perhaps the point of greatest debate is the extent to which the Chinese government can control the Internet. All Internet traffic flows in and out of the country through groupings of fiber-optic cables at essentially three specific locations. The cables contain what has been described as tiny “mirrors.” When any of China’s estimate 380 million Internet users attempts to link to a website the request is directed to China’s Ministry of Public Security, which employs as many as 50,000 people to monitor communications and media.

However, with media— and media companies—growing exponentially and developing new broadcasting methods all the time, the flow of information has become like to a river descending a mountain. The question is whether it can it be stopped, even if many rocks are placed in its path.

The Chinese government seems to want its citizens to believe that it is not placing rocks, but building a wall—a solid wall of media censorship that has been under construction since 1997. Yet to what extent is it truly capable of controlling all forms of media? In some cases it blocks outright companies it deems threatening.  In other cases it employs a more nuanced screening approach.

The following is a list of major media categories and companies that are either partially or wholly blocked from China’s market.