Anticipating the Communist Party meeting in October, China’s government has disrupted WhatsApp. The increased censorship actions taken by the government now mean that it is solely accessible through virtual private networks (VPNs) and only on occasion, with even some of these being blocked. Well known for their strict social media policies, many other platforms are prohibited in mainland China. People have access to government monitored apps, in this case ‘WeChat’. Created by the Chinese company Tencent, as an app it is far more multifaceted than WhatsApp, allowing people to pay for things and play games. The price paid by millions of Chinese users is that all of the information is accessible by the government.
It’s not just WhatsApp that the Chinese have taken over, but all of the mainstream Western social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Google and YouTube. Since 2009 Twitter has been banned, due to the government blaming it for a protest that year. Instead, they created Weibo. The main difference is the nature of discussion – instead of political posts, users write more about personal affairs. Regarding Google, also forbidden, they replaced it with Baidu. Investigating similar areas as Google and offering parallel services, the government is able to control and monitor Weibo to try and increase the controls on it. QQ is the equivalent to our Facebook messenger, also owned by Tencent, but, surprisingly, is available to those who do not yet have a phone. Finally, Youku is China’s version of YouTube. Although similar to YouTube on the surface, as the main platform where anyone can upload videos, any Communist Party criticism is immediately taken down. Many of the famous ‘Youkuers’ direct users to purchase products from Alibaba, similar Amazon or eBay, conveniently the company which own Youku.
In China’s case, the country is the leading economic force globally, a clear marker of development, yet they exhibit such censorship and strict government control. History and Politics students, or those considering other Humanities disciplines such as PPE or Philosophy may wish to consider the relationship between progression and regression in society. If they develop in some areas why might they regress in others? Do all society’s progress?