For the last five months, I have been studying and living in Hong Kong among the tall buildings and the big crowds of people.
As amazing as the city was to me, I spent most of my time studying and learning about China, and I also had time to visit the interesting and diverse country.
However, starting as an Intern here with the entire company working with social media has made me think about the conditions in China, and I have realised that an agency like Mindjumpers could never exist in the country. Here, I will explain to you why I think it’s like that.
Local sites substitute Facebook, Twitter etc.
The social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google that we use every day and take for granted are all banned in China. Of course China is not living in the Stone Age and local sites controlled and monitored by the Government such as Baidu, a search engine, and Renren, social networking site, make tons of money supplying the Chinese people with Facebook and YouTube-like sites. The Chinese are able to chat, find love and blog like the rest of us as long as they don’t write anything that might seem threatening or inappropriate to the Government – but that is a lot!
You might think that as long as the Chinese people have access to social media and have the same possibilities as us, everything is fine. But that is far from always the case, though.
Where social media could have played a great role
Under the early stages of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic, the Chinese Government span the news as a rumour and later on as something they already had brought under control. Citizens in the affected areas knew it was not the case, but couldn’t do anything to warn other parts of the country. As a result of the Chinese Government’s approach of denying, the virus had three months to evolve from an easily controllable disease to a dangerous epidemic before the Government acknowledged the importance.
Incidents like this makes it ethically very wrong for global social media companies to operate under the Chinese rules. Google had to give up the huge Chinese market, because it refused to collaborate with the Government and make search words like “freedom of speech” and “human rights” unavailable to the Chinese users. Other companies like Yahoo have decided to bent its ethical codes and obey the Government’s rules to exploit the huge market potential China offers.
The Chinese people that don’t want to settle with the domestic counterparts can with luck and money use proxy-sites that work as virtual private networks, VPNs. But for me, it’s very difficult to imagine how a country can supress its people and get away with it – and why the Government would want to do it at all. The answer goes way back in time and for as long as the Chinese people can remember they have been supressed by their rulers.
What is going to happen?
I wonder what the future brings and whether the conditions will change in China at all. Will Facebook close its deal with the Government and obey the rules and regulations – or will the outside and inside pressure for change be the final straw that breaks the camel’s back? I guess we’ll have to see. Let me know what you think in the comments below.