Decoding the censorship apparatus used by WeChat
Every Tuesday and Thursday, Inkstone Explains unravels the ideas and context behind the headlines to help you understand news about China. Information is increasingly created, shared and consumed on a handful of social media platforms, a trend that has placed greater scrutiny on the owners and executives behind these tech behemoths, at least in the United States. As they have become more powerful globally, social media giants are trying to walk the tightrope by avoiding perceptions of censorship while corralling the spread of misinformation. In China, however, content censorship is part of the game and is widely accepted as a cost of doing business. WeChat, an app used ubiquitously throughou
China Trends: Period drama cancelled, and a man drove over his ex-girlfriend
Every Tuesday and Thursday, China Trends takes the pulse of the Chinese social media to keep you in the loop of what the world’s biggest internet population is talking about. Period drama get canceled China delisted two of the most popular period dramas from streaming platforms on Monday, creating new concerns about media censorship in the country.  Story of Yanxi Palace and Ruyi's Royal Love in the Palace were pulled from the streaming platform iQiyi and Tencent and the two companies did not provide any official reason or statement.  Both affected shows are set in the 18th century during the Qing dynasty (1644 to 1912). They tell tales of love and struggles between Emperor Qianlong and his
Australian and Chinese journalists find themselves caught in diplomatic storm
Chinese state media has claimed that Australian intelligence agents raided the homes of Chinese journalists based in Australia as the escalating diplomatic spat between Beijing and Canberra widened into the media sphere.  The reports about the alleged June 24 searches were published hours after China’s foreign ministry confirmed that Cheng Lei, an Australian journalist working for Chinese state broadcaster CGTN, was detained on suspicion of “endangering China’s national security.” Cheng has been detained since August 14. Two other Australian journalists – Bill Birtles from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and Michael Smith from the Australian Financial Review (AFR) – fled China
Beijing is censoring a French economist Xi Jinping once praised
When French economist Thomas Piketty published his acclaimed Capital in the 21st Century in 2013, it was an immediate hit upon release in China, selling hundreds of thousands of copies. The nearly 700-page book, an analysis and critique of modern capitalism and inequality, even won praise from President Xi Jinping. In a 2015 speech he used its findings on surging inequality in the United States and Europe to claim that Marxist political economy was as relevant as ever. But Piketty’s new book Capital and Ideology, which expands on the theme of inequality, looks increasingly unlikely to have the same success after falling foul of China’s censors. Published outside China last year, it has yet
News or propaganda? Not all media outlets in China are created equal
Every Tuesday and Thursday, Inkstone Explains unravels the ideas and context behind the headlines to help you understand news about China. In response to growing worries in the US over foreign meddling in elections, American social media companies have taken upon themselves to identify accounts run by foreign governments. YouTube in 2018 began adding labels to state-owned media. Facebook followed suit several months before the 2020 presidential elections, while Twitter has taken the extra step of limiting the spread of posts made by outlets and people affiliated with a foreign government. But blanket labeling of Chinese media as “state-affiliated,” as Twitter does, glosses over the important
Why David Beckham’s tattoos look blurry on Chinese television
Every Tuesday and Thursday, Inkstone Explains unravels the ideas and context behind the headlines to help you understand news about China. When the Chinese state broadcaster CCTV played a travel documentary starring David Beckham in May, viewers were treated to an eye-opening experience – sort of. As a shirtless Beckham recalled how he put his career ahead of his family, what viewers saw was the English soccer star’s head floating on a blurry blob of what would have been his exposed torso, abs and all. His body tattoos were all pixelated. The defaced Beckham was the result of a censorship rule in China that since 2018 prohibits broadcasters from showing tattooed celebrities on TV.  But as t
China confirms arrest of citizen journalist covering coronavirus
A former lawyer and citizen journalist who reported on the coronavirus outbreak from central China has been formally arrested on public disturbance charges in Shanghai, her father has confirmed. The family was notified on Friday of Zhang Zhan’s arrest for allegedly “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” a catch-all charge often used by the authorities to detain dissidents in China.  Prosecutors approved the arrest in Shanghai’s Pudong district. According to the official notice given to her parents, Zhang, 37, was in police custody in the district. “I’m very worried about her health and the detention conditions, and her mother is heartbroken,” Zhang’s 63-year-old father, who declined to g
How China engineers an alternative internet for its people 
Every Tuesday and Thursday, Inkstone Explains unravels the ideas and context behind the headlines to help you understand news about China. Stretching along the entire border of mainland China is an invisible barrier, dubbed the Great Firewall, that keeps out information that the Chinese authorities deem inappropriate. Sites such as Facebook, Google, Twitter – and Inkstone – are inaccessible in the mainland thanks to this metaphorical wall. The list of banned websites is ever expanding. While software to bypass the wall exists, the sophisticated system of censorship has become a powerful tool for the ruling Chinese Communist Party to strengthen its rule by limiting what China’s 900 million in
China expels American reporters and vows more punishments
China has threatened more curbs on US media operating in the country after saying it will expel journalists from three American newspapers. “China called on the US to stop suppressing Chinese media. If the US continues to be on the wrong track, China will be forced to take further countermeasures,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Wednesday.  The Ministry said on Tuesday it was revoking the press credentials for American journalists from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, describing it as a response to the Trump administration’s recent measures against Chinese state media outlets in the United States. Washington last month labeled five Ch
‘Let’s play’: Beijing hints at payback for US curbs on Chinese state media
China has suggested that it will retaliate against the United States for reducing the number of Chinese nationals allowed to work in the US offices of major Chinese state-owned media organizations. Hua Chunying, the head of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s information department, on Tuesday condemned the Trump administration’s restrictions on five Chinese state-run media outlets that will result in the effective expulsion of dozens of Chinese journalists from the US. “Now the US kicked off the game, let’s play,” she said in a tweet. The US said on Monday it will put a “personnel cap” on five organizations the Trump administration considers propaganda arms of the Chinese government. The restri