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U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, "Hearing: Access to Information and Media Control in the People’s Republic of China," June 18, 2008

This hearing was conducted by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission on June 18, 2008. The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission was created by the U.S. Congress in 2000 to monitor, investigate, and submit to Congress an annual report on the national security implications of the economic relationship between the United States and the People’s Republic of China.
June 18, 2008

June 18, 2008
Room 418, Russell Senate Office Building
Delaware and Constitution Avenue, NE
Washington, DC  20510

Hearing Co-Chairs: Chairman Larry Wortzel and Commissioner Jeffrey Fiedler

Opening Statement of Chairman Larry Wortzel

Good morning. Welcome to today’s hearing on “Access to Information and Media Control in the People’s Republic of China.” This is the sixth of nine public hearings that the Commission will hold this year pursuant to its statutory responsibilities.

My name is Larry Wortzel, and I am the Chairman of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission for the 2008 reporting year. Alongside Commissioner Jeffrey Fiedler, I am one of the co-chairs of today’s hearing. As we begin today, I would like to extend a special note of thanks to Chairman Akaka and the other members and staff of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee for providing us with the use of their hearing room for today’s proceedings.

Congress has given our Commission the statutory responsibility to examine the potential effects that restrictions on information in China could have on relations between China and the United States, with a particular eye towards the ways in which such restrictions could impact economic and security policy. Recent events have dramatically shown how restricted access to information affects such issues as public health, product safety, information on goods and services, and the impact of nationalist fervor in China on diplomatic relations.

To explore many of these issues we are joined today by a number of esteemed representatives of academia and non-governmental organizations. We hope that this will help to illuminate the public debate on these issues, and to assist the Commission in providing a clearer picture of these issues to both Congress and the American public.

Now, I’d like to turn the floor over tomy colleague and co-chair, Mr. Jeffrey Fiedler, for his comments.

Opening Statement of Commissioner Jeffrey Fiedler

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I’d like to second the Chairman’s welcome to all of those attending our proceedings today, as well as to those members of Congress who will testify at today’s hearing: (Congressional responses still pending).

Recent developments in China raise serious concern about the government’s continuing efforts to control information available to its citizens. In the lead-up to this year’s Olympics, the Chinese government has made repeated promises of greater press and internet freedom, but there are many discouraging signs that these promises are not being fulfilled. The Chinese government also continues to impede the efforts of U.S.-sponsored news agencies, such as those acting under the sponsorship of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, to bring more open and objective sources of information to the Chinese public.

Furthermore, the displays of angry, defensive Chinese nationalism on display in the wake of international criticisms of the government’s policies in Tibet serve to reveal the negative effects produced by the Chinese government’s pervasive nationalist propaganda directed at its own people. Denied broader sources of information from which to form more objective views, Chinese citizens may develop a distorted view of the world that feeds hostility towards the United States and other countries.

In order to keep its own people insulated from news that it does not like, the government has erected a pervasive information control system, which goes far beyond the traditional print and broadcast media. Chinese government censorship has kept pace with rapidly changing modern technology, and the government has established an elaborate internet control regime intended to filter out information on sensitive topics, as well as to inhibit the use of the internet as a tool for developing institutions of civil society. American companies have played a prominent role in facilitating the government’s construction of this internet control regime. We hope that our discussions here today will contribute to the public debate as to whether or not further U.S. government action is required to regulate the participation of U.S. companies in the censorship regimes of foreign governments.

With that, I’ll turn the floor over to our first witness... (if no members of Congress appear, the first witness will be Dr. Randolph Kluver).

Opening Statements
Opening Statement of Chairman Larry Wortzel
Opening Statement of Commissioner Jeffrey Fiedler

Panel I: Information Control and Media Influence Associated with the Olympics

  • A general discussion of the ways in which preparations for the Olympics have affected the efforts of the PRC state to control  domestic & international perceptions of China’s domestic situation and foreign engagements  
  • A discussion of the earlier pledges of media freedom made by the PRC state in association with the Olympics, and whether or not they are being honored

Dr. Randolph Kluver, Director of the Institute for Pacific Asia, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX
Ms. Lucie Morillon, Washington Representative for Reporters Without Borders, Washington, D.C.

Panel II: Information Control and Media Influence Associated with China’s Ethnic Unrest and Outbreaks of Infectious Disease

  • A discussion of how the PRC state seeks to control information about social unrest resulting from social problems (land seizures, pollution, etc.), and the means by which the internet and new technologies are being used as a tool of mobilization by civil society groups
  • A discussion of how the PRC state seeks to control information, both domestically and internationally, about ethnic unrest (in Tibet, Xinjiang, etc.)

Mr. Dan Southerland, Vice President of Programming and Executive Editor of Radio Free Asia, Washington, D.C.
Col. Susan Puska (USA-R), Defense Group Inc., Washington DC

Panel III: Access to the Internet and the Participation of U.S. & Western Firms in Chinese Internet Controls

  • A discussion of ways and means by which the state controls publicly-available content on the internet
  • A discussion of the role played by U.S. firms in facilitating regime control of the internet

Mr.  Xiao Qiang, Director of China Internet Project at University of California-Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
Dr. Ron Deibert, Director of the Citizen Lab at the Munk Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario; speaking on behalf of the Open Net Initiative

Panel IV: Popular Chinese Nationalism & Its Relationship to Chinese State Media

  • A discussion of popular Chinese nationalism, the outlets by which it is expressed, and how it effects U.S.-China relations
  • A discussion of how the Chinese government seeks by turns to foster nationalism and xenophobia for purposes of domestic political mobilization, and then to restrain it as a potential threat to social order

Dr. Peter Gries, Harold J. & Ruth Newman Chair in US-China Issues, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK
Dr. Perry Link, Professor of East Asian Studies at Princeton University, Princeton, NJ

Panel V: Information Controls as a Potential WTO Violation

  • A discussion of ongoing debates within the U.S. and E.U. as whether or not Chinese government information controls (particularly for financial services sector information) could be considered as a WTO violation

Mr. Gilbert Kaplan, Partner at King & Spalding LLP, Washington, D.C.; speaking on behalf of the California First Amendment Coalition



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