The Chinese government is in the middle of an unprecedented internet crackdown in an effort to stall or silence criticism of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s decision to extend his termed presidency into a lifetime appointment.
China already has a stranglehold on how much information Chinese citizens are allowed to glean from the World Wide Web. Most social media sites don’t operate inside the Communist nation — China has its own versions of Twitter and Amazon — and the government controls most, if not all, of the news media.
But just last week, Xi Jinping made a move that could mean he’s positioned to become China’s first official lifelong dictator since Mao, extending his term as president “indefinitely.” And as part of that effort, he appears to have directed Chinese officials to engage in widespread censorship to tamp down any objections.
As a result, George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” has been wiped off the web, and Chinese citizens can no longer access the single most biting critique of Communist government ever published. They’ve also banned a specific “Winnie the Pooh” cartoon that shows the lovable Disney bear clutching a pot of honey, near the words, “Find the thing you love and stick with it” (an apparent reference to Xi Jinping’s self-granted lifelong appointment), and references that connect Xi Jinping to Mao Zedong.
The government also, inexplicably (and temporarily), banned the letter “N,” making it next to impossible to access much of the internet for several days. Experts on Chinese policy told the UK’s Evening Standard that it’s possible Chinese dissidents were using a lone letter “N” as a code to find each other on the internet, or that certain dissident literature had been marked with the letter, though it’s not clear how the Chinese would be able to strain every use of “N,” especially if it appeared in photos or in PDF files.
But either the government recognized the futility of banning “N,” or the censorship simply went too far. By Wednesday, the letter “N” was unbanned and restored to its former glory.
The move might seem overly aggressive, but, it turns out, Xi Jinping and his associates have been engaging in periodic crackdowns since 2015, as Xi Jinping’s stranglehold on Chinese life has increased. Xi’s government, which has become more permissive economically over his tenure, has balanced its liberal approach to making money with a stricter approach to social life.