Political Contentment or Passivity in China?

In The Art of Travel Fall 2017, 5. Politics, Shanghai by Irina1 Comment

It seems that passionate political debates are a rare thing in China, at least amongst the Chinese students at NYU Shanghai. At a time when the citizens of the U.S. are more vocal than ever about their political parties and beliefs, the Chinese seem to have little to say about their own governing body. This must be the benefit of having only one major party in power for almost 100 years- there is little friction amongst its citizens due to opposing beliefs.

I know very little about China and its government system, only knowing that President Xi Jinping is its current president and head of the Communist Party of China. From what I’ve gathered, there is little to no voting for the common person. They can vote for local representatives but China runs on a hierarchal electoral system, giving the average citizen little choice in their leader. Despite this fact, most people are quite content with President Xi and his strict stance against corruption. The political climate here is definitely one of consensus rather than polarization as in the U.S. though I wonder how much of this general consensus is caused by the censorship of journalism and other media.

When searching for Chinese politics on Xinhua and China Daily, two big government-funded news agencies, headlines only show straightforward facts with no opinion-based articles or critiques.

For example, this article pushes key facts and figures through infographics to show how the Chinese economy has prospered under President Xi without much explanation of how these numbers were calculated. The “watchdog” role of the media is nonexistent here and these sites only serve to benefit the government’s image.

Regulations on the entertainment industry and on Internet content also help to create this unique bubble of impression surrounding Chinese citizens. All broadcast media is censored and foreign broadcast signals must pass through Chinese satellites, allowing the government to block out certain segments. Foreign websites are also only able to be accessed through VPN though recently the government has started to block some VPNs as well. With all this censorship on media, I’m not quite sure if the Chinese will ever have a clear political picture of what is going on within and beyond their country. I’m not quite sure they even mind.

I can’t help but think that the Chinese government must welcome the advent and popularity of mobile games, apps, and entertainment as it distracts and pacifies its citizens all while boosting its national economy. I’ve learned from my Global Media Seminar that entertainment can serve as an “opium for the masses”, not only making life more tolerable and exciting but also distracting people from being politically informed or active. While there have been some micro-blogger dissidents, they have been quickly shut down and forgotten. Things might be going swimmingly for Chinese citizens now but I feel that they might want to be more politically aware sooner rather than later, especially with the South China sea dispute.


  1. Hey Irina! Your post definitely opened my eyes up to a whole world of media, as I often think about what the role of the media is when it comes to government. It’s so interesting to see a media that aims to support the government rather than critique it, and those who do are shut down. It makes me wonder what the long-term effects of this kind of regulation are on Chinese society. Also, thank you so much for including the article about the South China sea dispute, that’s a really important news story more should know!

Leave a Comment