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Paper on censorship in China

Paper on censorship in China

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Published by IDG News Service

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Published by: IDG News Service on Jun 15, 2012
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How Censorship in China Allows GovernmentCriticism but Silences Collective Expression
Gary King
Jennifer Pan
Margaret Roberts
.June 14, 2012
We offer the first large scale, multiple source analysis of the outcome of what may bethe most extensive effort to selectively censor human expression ever implemented.To do this, we have devised a system to locate, download, and analyze the contentof millions of social media posts originating from nearly 1,400 different social me-dia services all over China before the Chinese government is able to find, evaluate,and censor (i.e., remove from the Internet) the large subset they deem objectionable.Using modern computer-assisted text analytic methods that we adapt to and validatein the Chinese language, we compare the substantive content of posts censored tothose not censored over time in each of 85 issue areas. Contrary to previous under-standings, posts with negative, even vitriolic, criticism of the state, its leaders, and itspolicies are not more likely to be censored. Instead, we show that the censorship pro-gram is aimed at curtailing collective action by silencing comments that represent,reinforce, or spur social mobilization, regardless of content. Censorship is orientedtoward attempting to forestall collective activities that are occurring now or may oc-cur in the future — and, as such, seem to clearly expose government intent, such asexamples we offer where sharp increases in censorship presage government actionoutside the Internet.
Our thanks to Peter Bol, John Carey, Justin Grimmer, Iain Johnston, Bill Kirby, Jean Oi, Liz Perry, BobPutnam, Noah Smith, Andy Walder, and Barry Weingast for helpful comments and suggestions; the incred-ible teams at Crimson Hexagon, and the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University, forhelp with data and many technical issues; and our indefatigable undergraduate research associates, WanxinCheng, Jennifer Sun, Hannah Waight, Yifan Wu, and Min Yu.
Albert J. Weatherhead III University Professor, Institute for Quantitative Social Science, 1737 Cam-bridge Street, Harvard University, Cambridge MA 02138; http://GKing.harvard.edu, king@harvard.edu,(617) 500-7570.
Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Government, 1737 Cambridge Street, Harvard University, CambridgeMA 02138; http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/ 
 jjpan/, (917) 740-5726.
Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Government, 1737 Cambridge Street, Harvard University, CambridgeMA 02138; http://scholar.harvard.edu/mroberts/home
1 Introduction
The size and sophistication of the Chinese government’s program to selectively censorthe expressed views of the Chinese people is unprecedented in recorded world history.Unlike in the U.S., where social media is centralized through a few providers, in Chinait is fractured across hundreds of local sites, with each individual site employing up to1,000 censors. Additionally, approximately 20,000–50,000 Internet police and an esti-mated 250,000–300,000 “50 cent party members” (
wumao dang
) are employed by thecentral government. However, all levels of government — central, provincial, and local— participate in this huge effort (Chen and Ang 2011, and our interviews with informants,granted anonymity). China overall is tied with Burma at 187th of 197 countries on a scaleof press freedom (Freedom House,2012), but the Chinese censorship effort is by far the largest.In this paper, we show that this program, designed to
freedom of speech of Chi-nese citizens, paradoxically also
an extraordinarily rich source of informationabout the Chinese government’s interests, intentions, and goals — a subject of long-standing interest to the scholarly and policy communities. The information we unearthis available in continuous time, rather than the usual sporadic media reports of the lead-ers’ sometimes visible actions. As a further indication that this information measuresintent, we also offer some tentative evidence that censorship behavior predicts actions byleaders outside the Internet. We use this new information to develop a theory of the overallpurpose of the censorship program, and thus to reveal some of the most basic goals of theChinese leadership that until now have been the subject of intense speculation but neces-sarily not much empirical analysis. The information we unearth is also a treasure trovethat can be used for many other scholarly (and practical) purposes. Upon publication, wewill make available data, methods, and analytical results for further analyses by others.Our central theoretical finding is that, contrary to much research and commentary, thepurpose of the censorship program is
to supress criticism of the state or the Party.Indeed, despite widespread censorship of social media, we find that when the Chinesepeople write scathing criticisms of their government and its leaders, the probability that1
their post will be censored does not increase. Instead, we find that the purpose of thecensorship program is to reduce the probability of collective action by clipping social tieswhenever any localized social movements are in evidence or expected. We demonstratethese points and then discuss their far-reaching implications for the state, civil society,political control, and the economy.We begin in Section2by defining two theories of Chinese censorship. Section3 describes our unique data source and how we gathered it. Section4gives our results, andSection5shows we can predict government action. Section6concludes.
2 Government Intentions and the Purpose of Censorship
Previous Indicators of Government Intent
Deciphering the opaque intentions andgoals of the leaders of the Chinese regime was once the central focus of scholarly researchon Chinese Communist Party politics, where Western researchers used Kremlinology —or Pekingology — as a methodological strategy (Chang,1983;Charles,1966;Hinton, 1955;MacFarquhar,1974,1983;Schurmann,1966;Teiwes,1979). With the Cultural Revolution and with China’s economic opening, more sources of data became availableto researchers, and scholars shifted their focus to areas where information was more ac-cessible. Studies of China today rely on government statistics, citizen surveys, interviewswith local officials, as well as measures of the visible actions of government officials andthe government as a whole (Guo,2009;Kung and Chen,2011;Tsai,2007
;Shih,2008). These sources are well-suited to answer other important political science questions, butin gauging government intent, these data sources are widely known to be indirect, verysparsely sampled, and often of dubious value. For example, government statistics, suchas the number of protest incidents with government intervention, could offer a view of government interests, but only if we could somehow separate true numbers from govern-ment manipulation. Similarly, sample surveys are informative but may be influenced bywhat respondents think the government them to see and believe. In situations where directinterviews with officials are possible, researchers are in the position of having to read tealeaves to ascertain what their informants really believe.2

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Feed your head with a play by Pamela Olson added this note
Greetings, well done here. It's like from The Not-So-Wise Guys that want to do their shaping on others. To the Hive Mind of this Brute Squad, The Wise One is a Marked One, a Mad One, in their time, place and circumstances perturbing, ruffling, rattling, and dangerous.
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