Politics & Policy

People’s Republic: “Don’t you go getting any ideas, now”

Try searching for “Egypt or “Cairo” on search engines in Beijing right now. You’ll get absolutely nothing. In the interests of national harmony, the Chicons have blocked those search requests from Chinese internet service

 

 It’s a sign that the Chinese government fears the democratic movement brewing in the Middle East could cross continents and reach China.

On Sunday, “Egypt” and “Cairo” were removed from popular Chinese Web sites such as Sina.com and Sohu.com, according to Reuters.Sina.com and Sohu.com are as popular in China as Twitter is in the United States. Searches with the word ‘Egypt’ have produced messages saying search results could not be found.

Besides their authoritarian systems, China and Egypt share some similarities when it comes to Internet use. About one-third of each nation’s population uses the Web. (That’s 450 million people in China, and nearly 27 million people in Egypt.)

But one striking difference is that Internet freedom has been much greater in Egypt, and democracy advocates have made use of it. Digital platforms have emerged as safe havens in a society that otherwise restricts free speech and the media. Egyptians have had fairly open discussions online about politics and the Mubarak regime.

With the notable exception of the past week, the Egyptian government does not routinely block social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. China does. Chinese activists who want to use Twitter route their Internet connection through foreign servers.

But on top of that, China in recent days has attempted to control coverage of Egypt in the online and mainstream media. In addition to blocking the words “Egypt” and “Cairo” from search engines, the government has reportedly encouraged newspapers to base their discussions of events in Egypt on clips from the Xinhua state news agency.

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