News

Chaos in the walled garden: China's Great Firewall and thriving internet culture


2 September 2011

For breaking news and critical commentary, there is no other place for Chinese citizens than the internet, says Jeremy Goldkorn.
For breaking news and critical commentary, there is no other place for Chinese citizens than the internet, says Jeremy Goldkorn.

The Chinese internet is fundamentally different from the internet that most westerners experience. It is highly controlled and censored. Blog posts, newspaper reports, and even government propaganda articles and videos sometimes disappear without notice.

On 5 September in a Sydney Ideas talk Jeremy Goldkorn will reflect on these differences in his talk Firewall China: the internet and social media in China.

Jeremy Goldkorn is ideally placed to discuss China's online and social media environment. He was the founder, in 2003, of the popular China media website Danwei.org, which tracked changes in China's media and internet on a daily basis.

"Chinese internet users are very cynical, often believing that anything reported in the official and commercial media is likely to be a lie. Falsehoods, rumours and unreliable information are equally common on the internet, but for breaking news and critical commentary, there is no other place for Chinese citizens," Goldkorn said.

He gives a recent example of the relationship between Chinese official and online media using the bullet train crash which happened in July this year and killed at least 40 people. Weibo, China's version of Twitter, provided more reliable information than the official media, including the most accurate death toll and list of victims, which is still being compiled online, in a shared Google document.

The talk will examine how Chinese internet censorship works, what people do to get around it, and take a look at the growing subculture of black humour and subversive reporting and investigation that thrives despite all the restrictions.

Born in South Africa, Jeremy Goldkorn has lived in Beijing since 1995. He has lived in a workers dormitory, ridden a bicycle across Xinjiang and Tibet, and spent the last 13 years working in the Chinese media, advertising and internet industries.

Goldkorn produced the documentary film African Boots of Beijing. His writing has appeared in many Chinese and foreign publications including The Guardian, The New York Times, Life (生活), and Cosmopolitan's China edition (时尚杂志), covering a range of subjects from media regulation, internet business, freedom of expression, the habits of young Chinese internet users, Sino-African affairs, the Great Wall and Chinese consumer culture. Public Affairs Asia magazine called Goldkorn "one of China's most prolific and powerful social media commentators."

This event is co-presented with the University of Sydney's China Studies Centre and the Australian Centre on China in the World at the Australian National University.


Event details

What: Firewall China: the internet and social media in China

When: 6pm, Monday 5 September

Where: Foyer, New Law Building, Camperdown Campus. See map and directions

Cost: This series is free and open to all, with no ticket or booking required. Entry is on a first come, first served basis.


Media enquiries: Verity Leatherdale, 9351 4312, 0419 278 715, verity.leatherdale@sydney.edu.au