National Trolls

Huang Yuan

Last month in an open letter, the editor of China Quarterly, Tim Pringle, reported that more than three hundred articles deemed ‘sensitive’ by the Chinese censors had been blocked in mainland China. The letter caused outrage among Sinologists. CQ’s publisher, Cambridge University Press, appeared to have complied out of fear that failure to do so would cost it its entire operation in China. The Chinese response to Pringle’s letter was typical: the party’s mouthpiece the Global Times suggested in an editorial that it wasn’t important if some articles in CQ disappeared from the Chinese internet. This was a matter of principle and time would tell whose principles were better suited to the era. Why, in other words, should foreign academics be entitled to preferential treatment? If you want to conduct your business here, you must comply with our laws, as all Chinese do. (Netizens refer to the Global Times as an agile dog that always fetches the ball, no matter how far the Party throws it; also as the ‘one-eyed minion’.)

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[*] Despite its ‘Don’t be evil’ slogan, Google may already regret its confrontation with censorship in China and try to zigzag back. Google’s partnership with the Chinese government for this year’s Future of Go summit was a failure. Despite the prestige of the event, and the presence of Google’s AI player, AlphaGo Master, the name ‘Google’ was not mentioned once in Chinese media coverage. Once you cross the line, the leadership finds it hard to give you a second chance.