Restrictions on online freedom of expression in China

The domestic, regional and international implications of China’s policies and practices
Research paper Published 17 March 2021 Updated 22 April 2021 ISBN: 978 1 78413 463 1
A press conference on the prevention and control work of the COVID-19 epidemic is held by the Information Office of Beijing Municipality on 14 June 2020 in Beijing.

Champa Patel

Executive Director, Governments and Policy Climate Group

This paper maps the Chinese government’s restrictions on online freedom of expression, and explores their domestic, regional and international implications. It examines China’s model of internet control, censorship and surveillance, drawing on recent examples that have arisen in the COVID-19 context. It analyses the degree to which this approach shapes wider trends and online restrictions in the rest of Asia, looking also at the influence of Western policies and technologies. And it reviews China’s growing influence on global technology governance in multilateral and bilateral settings. This includes China’s increasing assertiveness in international debates about digital technology regulation, its promotion of a vision of ‘cyber sovereignty’ that emphasizes state surveillance and control, and the leadership’s ambitions for the ‘Digital Silk Road’ initiative.