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A brief history of media
and information policy in China

SARFT and GAPP are
for wussies

In 221 BC, after crushing all his rivals, Emperor Qin Shihuang became the unifier and first ruler of the country we now call China. Below is an extract from Sima Qian's history of China, written about a hundred years after Qin Shihuang's rule. The quote is from Chancellor Li Si's Advice, Biography of the First Emperor:
"Now the Emperor has unified all under heaven, distinguishing black from white and establishing a single source of authority.

Yet the adherents of private theories band together to criticize the laws and directives. Hearing that an order has been handed down, each one proceeds to discuss it in the light of his own theories. At court they disapprove in their hearts; outside they debate it in the streets. They hold it a mark of fame to defy the ruler, regard it as lofty to take a dissenting stance, and they lead the lesser officials in fabricating slander.

If behavior such as this is not prohibited, then in upper circles the authority of the ruler will be compromised, and in lower ones cliques will form. Therefore it should be prohibited.

I therefore request that all records of the historians other than those of the state of Qin be burned. With the exception of the academicians whose duty it is to possess them, if there are persons anywhere in the empire who have in their possession copies of the Odes, the Documents, or the writings of the hundred schools of philosophy, they shall in all cases deliver them to the governor or his commandant for burning.

Anyone who ventures to discuss the Odes or Documents shall be executed in the marketplace. Anyone who uses antiquity to criticize the present shall be executed along with his family.

Any official who observes or knows of violations and fails to report them shall be equally guilty.

Anyone who has failed to burn such books within thirty days of the promulgation of this order shall be punitively tattooed and condemned to hard labor.

The books that are to be exempted are those on medicine, divination, agriculture, and forestry.

Anyone wishing to study the laws and ordinances should have a law official for his teacher."

Refer to the links below for information about more recent media policies in China. For more on historical examples of media control in China, go to ESWN: Stupefying the People.

Links and Sources
China Media Timeline
Major media events over the last three decades
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From 2008
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+ Culture and corporate propaganda in Soho Xiaobao (2007.11): Mid-2007 issues of Soho Xiaobao (SOHO小报), illustrating the complicated identity of in-house magazines run by real estate companies.
+ Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship (2010.03): Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship at an officially sanctioned meeting in Shenzhen.
+ Crowd-sourced cheating on the 2010 gaokao (2010.06): A student in Sichuan seeks help with the ancient Chinese section of this year's college entrance exam -- while the test is going on!
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