The editorial article China’s Great Firewall: Fortune at the expense of freedom? published in 2015 fairly concludes the status quo of the internet development under harsh government surveillance, which exceeds expectation of some American critics. And Amnesty International fears that the mode of China will be explored to other places like Russia and Egypt, and Facebook would monitor its users to comply with local laws in China.
Shirky suggests taking the “environmental” view that positive social change follow instead of precede strong public sphere, so America should work on helping other countries building public sphere through social media to promote its democracy in a long run instead of taking measures that is short-run confrontations (2011). I think Shirky explains well of the reasons for Chinese restrictions on Internet. It is because the government afraid the outside information would alarm more citizens, so it directly restrict the access (2011).
Shirky also mentions that “a public sphere is more likely to emerge in a society as a result of people’s dissatisfaction with matters of economics or day-to-day governance than from their embrace of abstract political ideals”. In the special case of China, with heavy surveillance, the economy and internet technology still develop during the past two decades, which even makes the rest of the world worry about its model. So it attests to Shirky’s view from the converse side. Because of the economic development, the stable and peaceful situation, people’s satisfaction with the society is rather high, thus it’s hard to evoke large scale of discussion on democracy online. But the point was right on many other cases in Chinese society, like the famous milk powder events which raise lots of dissatisfaction and improve the food scrutiny in China. So I agree with him that even with a slow building of public sphere under so many restraints, the positive change can finally come.
Like the many critics in the article, Shirky points out that internet shut down would jeopardize the country’s economy. However, the case in China contradicts with this view and shows that not only the economy develop, but the local companies also get chances to grow huge. China has a whole different system and tools of communication from the rest of the world. And in many ways, like e-commerce and logistics, do better than any other countries. You can pay the restaurant, buy movie tickets, and find discount clothes and communicate with others on only one app (not only on Wechat, but Wechat is a major platform).
People worry that Facebook would comply with Chinese surveillance in the article reflect American also have a hard time choosing between economy growth and freedom. As Comer and Bean concluded “Despite today’s engagement consensus, it seems clear that US foreign policy will remain largely determined by the country’s perceived political, economic, and military needs instead of the outcome of ethically structured modes of communication.”(2016, p.216). Although the freedom and human rights are always stressed by many critics and political leaders in America, it is no doubt that when facing economic interest, the consideration for democracy may give in to some extent.