It seems that un-wanted media outbreaks are going to be the norm from here on out gearing up for the Olympics. As most of you are aware, there has been a lot happening in Tibet of late. So much so that YouTube has been blocked out of China again, at certain times cars are not allowed to drive past Tiananmen Square, and even my friend’s integrated foreign-Chinese play has been shut down from performing in the central province of Sichuan, just because it may be to “risky”.
I think its going to continue all the way through to the Olympics, with every organization and lobbying group using this occasion as a platform for their own specific agenda. I guess that’s to be expected. A lot of people are apprehensive about what’s happening, starting with Tibet and anxious to see what will spring up next. William Moss, writer of the blog Imagethief, one of the more popular expat bloggers in China, writes: “The Chinese expected the Olympics to change foreign perceptions of China for the better. Foreigners expected the Olympics to change China for the better.” You can read the blog here.
Its interesting though, that with this Tibet situation, all the news agencies are declaring that for the first time, China has “admitted” that the protests have spread beyond Tibet’s borders. This viral media situation is in continuation of the CCTV-Anchor’s wife scandal, and the Edison scandal mentioned last posting. Maybe this is the tipping point where China really can no longer control every aspect of information flow in and out of China. Perhaps new media now has enough momentum and diffusion that it can force the Chinese government’s hand for a marginally more transparent media environment. BusinessWeek seems to think so: “…the crackdown failed as witnesses bypassed the country’s “Great Firewall” by uploading photos and videos to other, uncensored Web sites.” The article can be found here.
Regardless, I think we are all hoping that China can handle everything that is coming its way. Not trying to discount the importance of the causes that these groups are trying to raise awareness for, but most people agree peaceful and steady progress is the key to everything. While we celebrate new media and the multitude of capabilities, opportunities and changes it grants on societies and cultures all over the world, it is important to be cautious and even critical on how we use it.
We haven’t discovered yet whether crowd-sourcing and the web 2.0 public wields responsibility with its increased influence. I think China will really be the testing grounds for finding the answers to that question. With the last three media-frenzied events, and those still coming, I hope China, the public and the world are ready and responsible for how we handle Web 2.0′s full emergence onto the world stage.