“How Chinese Internet Policy is Like Qing Isolationism”

Via Amoiist’s Twitter, a comparison of modern Chinese internet policy with Qing dynasty isolationism from IfLonely (a blog whose motto is “If we want to keep living, we must understand the internet a little”). Anyway, here is our translation of their comparison table.

Translation

A Comparison…
Qing Dynasty Closed-Door Policy Modern Internet Censorship Policy
Goal Control the dissemination of religion, maintain stability of rule Control the dissemination of illicit foreign influence, maintain stability of rule
Methods and What was Said Strict regulations for Chinese wishing to travel abroad. The Qing government mandated that businessmen wishing to conduct trade abroad had to apply, sign a guarantee, go through an approval process, and obtain a permit before they could go, and there were harsh regulations on everything from the number of seamen allowed to the amount of grain that could be brought. Domain registration, host computer verification; limiting of ADSL Port 80, etc.
In 1757 the Qing issued the one port policy in Guangzhou, prohibited the exportation of grain, iron and ironware, several flammable chemicals, and works of literature, as well as placed heavy restrictions on the export of tea, silk, and roots [used in Chinese medicine]. Keywords are blocked, pages “reset”, etc.
Goods are plentiful in the celestial kingdom [China], we lack nothing and foreign products are unnecessary National power advances every aspect of the internet, [but in reality] the nation advances [gains] and the people retreat [lose].
Causes “Using reason to kill”; during the Qing the will of the ruler became morality and the ultimate basis for rationality, this will was considered ‘the rationality of Heaven’. Other ways of thinking were eliminated and freedom of thought was inhibited. Therefore a “lifeless” mentality was created. If some department says it’s this way, it’s this way; if they say something is “vulgar”, then it’s vulgar; those who behave in any way like “violaters of the law” will be severely dealt with, if they say Blogbus [a popular blogging portal] is banned then it’s banned.
“Using part to cover the whole”。Because of some misunderstanding about the West, even as Chinese were being introduced to Western technology they went so far as to hold deep prejudice and denounce it. Although they knew this technology was more precise than their own, for the sake of preserving the Chinese system, it was always labeled ‘rude technology that harms people’s thinking’. The trend of “plotting” is in many people’s hearts
“Being content with one’s lot”. There was too little consciousness of crisis。Speaking objectively, Chinese people at that time lacked the correct knowledge of the West, and there was only a vague consciousness of the external threat [to China]. All kinds of glorious activities, people living in contentment, China is extremely conceited.
“Sticking to one’s convictions”。Lacking creativity and intrepidness. The Civil Service examination system had a large influence on Chinese academia, and since the exam focused on Confucian ethics, other types of learning were reluctantly abandoned by most people. This greatly shackled the creativity and vitality of Chinese intellectuals.(1) The college examination system has led to a lack of creativity, and so the most cutting edge technological information is abandoned en masse.
Results The country was defeated Wait and see
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0 thoughts on ““How Chinese Internet Policy is Like Qing Isolationism””

  1. Interesting post — thanks for putting it out there!

    I’d add that the Qing idea of “we lack nothing and foreign products are unnecessary” is also becoming a modus operandi for China’s government, which now does most of its purchasing through Chinese companies.

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  2. Nicholas Kristof mentioned something in his column yesterday that Hu doesn’t have vision for the next 20 years. That’s exactly what I had been thinking. With HK going fully democratic in 2017 and with profound social changes technology brings, you are a complete idiot to think you can maintain a tight rule. The post-80s urban generation is different from their parents. They went through adolescence or early adulthood growing up together with the Internet and they’re becoming parents. And for the post-90s the Internet with its freedom is an essential part of their life. Even a poll over at anti-cnn sees more than 1/3 of the users supporting Google and you can imagine the opinions at Tianya, Mop and other places. Society is going to change, but apparently Hu and his politburo (I’m aware of the faultlines among them) don’t want that to happen before he leaves. But if Xi continues to do this I’m going to start making a lot of new plans.

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  3. “But if Xi continues to do this I’m going to start making a lot of new plans.”

    Do you really envisage the heir apparent bringing a breath of fresh air to the politburo?

    Make those plans now. If the next incumbent happens to defy expectations, tear them up. After all, the odds-makers do take beatings occasionally.

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  4. I disagree with using “we lack nothing and foreign products are unnecessary” to be compared with the current government. The government and the companies are rapidly buying foreign technology (Saab purchase, GE wind turbine purchases) and developing/improving many of their own.

    It’s only a matter of time before the current administration releases it’s iron grip on voice the masses. The KMT did it. the CCP can too. Chinese people are use to gradual change. It’s a matter of time. Hopefully, that time is soon.

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  5. The late Qing’s bureaucracy with highly-powered jobs filled by their children of influential leaders (the princelings) has its roots back to the eight-banner system.

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