SHANGHAI, China — Reports from various news sources Tuesday indicated that China has blocked internet access within the country to popular websites Twitter, Hotmail, Flickr and others.
While many within the country felt it was only a matter of time before this happened — I had already assumed the country’s censorship when my furious attempts to refresh Twitter were fruitless — I find this action on the Chinese government’s behalf to be truly pointless.
As the 20th anniversary of the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising nears, China has decided to crack down on popular websites to prevent discussion of the taboo topic.
This is only one of many steps the government has already taken in its attempts to filter the information that reaches its citizens: The local media is censored, news outlets from other unfavorable countries such as Taiwan are prohibited and, after hosting videos of Tibet, YouTube is also blocked.
China’s hush-hush attitude might successfully stop political tweets about June 4, 1989 (a search that purposefully yields no results when Googling websites in Chinese), but how long can it keep playing this game?
It might take years, but the Chinese are slowly being exposed to people, events and ideas they never learned in their history classes or heard their parents speak of.
Though most of this can be attributed to the Internet — which explains the government’s efforts — information also spreads through other channels. With traveling professionals, exchange students, tourists and the global economy, China cannot shut down all exposure to potentially risky topics, and frankly officials shouldn’t even try. Why delay the inescapable?
What’s more, though, is that a once-sheltered society is learning — and liking — the ways of outsiders. As China embraces the joys of capitalism, its people are left wondering what else they are missing out on that the rest of the world is enjoying.
The thirst for knowledge might not be as intense as the thirst for money, yet ultimately having American identities like McDonald’s in Shanghai has given China a glimpse of what’s outside its great (fire)walls.
And so far, they are lovin’ it.
The country is growing ever so quickly, and its leaders do not understand that despite their best efforts, the spread of information is inevitable. If global marketing can make its way into Chinese minds (as Chinese mistresses demand BMWs and Balenciagas), then it won’t be much longer before democratic principles and ideals seep into the public consciousness as well.
China, I beg of you — please stop fighting the inevitable. You will only alienate and infuriate the citizens who already know of what you are trying to hide and spur them to try harder to enlighten others.
Additionally, your attempts will only close off the country to the rest of the world — foreigners who are putting faith in you and taking a chance by investing in your capital, trying to live in your country and visiting your monuments to learn about your wonderful history and legacy.
Why make that legacy tainted?
Tiffanie Wu is a junior majoring in business administration and neuroscience.