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China’s Internet Censoring. Hate To Say I Told You So, But I Told You So….

Posted in Legal News

Back when the media was getting all hot and heavy (sexual reference intended) on China’s plans to require internet filtering software, I did a post, entitled, “Two China Things Of Which We Dare Not Speak (And Sex Is Not One of Them).” In that post, I explained why we virtually never write about proposed laws and why I had not written anything on the filtering software.
I gave the following reasons:
I do not like writing about proposed laws for the following reasons:

1. There are so many laws already on the books and being enforced that need coverage more. Laws on the books will impact you right now. Proposed laws may or may not ever come into being.
2. China has a very real habit of saying it will institute a new law and then never doing so. It floats new laws to gauge reaction. If the reaction is negative, the law oftentimes never comes into being.
3. China has a very real habit of instituting new laws and then never enforcing them. This often happens when the new law is negatively received.

Today, China officially backed down (no surprise). Or, in the words of the immortal Gilda Radner, Never mind.
China is billing it as a delay, but I can virtually guarantee this software will never be heard from again. I say this for two reasons. One, the people did not like it and Beijing does NOT want to go against the people on something like this. Since there is absolutely no reason to believe the people will ever start liking something like this, there is absolutely no reason to believe the software will return. Two, I know movement has been slow, and I know it has been in fits and starts, but if we were to draw a straight line through the rises and falls, freedom is on a fairly inexorable march in China.
We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming….
UPDATE: E-Commerce Times interviewed me on this last week and quotes me in their story today, entitled, “China Wobbles on Green Dam:

It was never really clear whether or not Beijing would enforce the edict, according to Dan Harris, a partner in international law firm Harris & Moure and an expert on China.
“What they’re doing is floating an idea and seeing what the reaction is,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “In the last five years, there probably have been thousands of laws China said it’s going to enact and hasn’t. Or it has enacted them but hasn’t implemented them.”

FURTHER UPDATE: Sky Canaves has a great post up on the WSJ China Journal, entitled, “Green Dam and the Politics of Consent,” discussing how popular “consent” plays a huge role in China’s governance. This post nails it completely.

  • http://wtanaka.com/taxonomy/term/5 Wesley
  • Hopfrog

    Dan you nailed it. Very impressive sir.
    I read about the “delay” earlier today and immediately thought of your post.

  • the running man

    One can look at the proposed Green Dam software in any number of ways; as evidence of freedom’s inexorable march in China, or as evidence of government’s actual motivation when it comes to perception management on a grand scale, and inability to pull the wool over the public’s eyes.
    Personally I wonder about the things we will never, never hear about in China, and the overall tendency, in China culture, to discredit criticism and promote conformity and stereotype. While the Chinese reserve the right to openly criticize other countries (particularly in own self-aggrandizement), that practice is often summarily quashed with bias, fallacy and misdirection at home.
    Thanks for the insights! As always, excellent reading.

  • xuande

    Good move. The government needs to learn where they get their power, where they get their support. That source is the young, educated youth of China. They need OUR consenting opinion to prevent widespread social upheaval. Introducing policies that don’t sit well with young people is a very, very poor idea. I hope they learned their lesson this time.

  • McFreedom

    “…freedom is on [the] march.”
    You just quoted George Bush, Jr.’s slogan justifying the invasion of Iraq.

  • bert

    I recall a few years ago the gov’t stating that a new law will require all mobile phone users to register their name with their mobile number. Never happened, thank goodness.

  • xiaohuialex

    it is a happy thing that they will not try to enforce the installation of green dam, but the have paid the company millions of RMB, which are the taxpayer’s money, will the company return the money?

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