Friday 4 October 2013

Mis-Communicator of the Week: China

China is so big and powerful, with seemingly endless potential for business and trade, that some seem willing to forget that it is still run by an authoritarian Communist politburo. For all the news reports we see of China's growing middle-classes and consumerism this week we saw the latest reality check.

China has begun its biggest internet crackdown in years. Targeting independent bloggers and social commentators the Chinese authorities are very publicly stating that all have to toe the Communist Party line.

One of those arrested is Charles Xue who is one of China's most influential micro-bloggers with 12 million followers on China's Sina Weibo social network. In a televised confession reminiscent of the show trials of the Stalin era Soviet Union, Mr Xue admitted to spreading irresponsible posts and believing himself above the law.

Mr Xue is significant enough to be called a "Big V". These are the most influential micro-bloggers - perhaps equivalent to Stephen Fry on Twitter in the UK - with the V standing for verified user in the way Twitter uses its tick.

Xinhua, the state-run news agency, proclaimed that Mr Xue had been "toppled from his sacred altar" and "this has sounded a warning bell about the law to all Big V’s on the internet".

In our age of transparency and openness this is a chilling statement which communicates an awful lot about the intentions of the Chinese government. Long held perceptions about China and doing business there will be reinforced.

In the UK some suffer abuse online from so-called trolls which has led to calls for tighter regulation of the internet. However, for every idiot who abuses our cherished free speech there is a positive campaign to highlight an issue or change in opinion.  In China if you try to change opinion you get arrested. This is why China is my Mis-Communicator of the Week. 

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