Learning English in China opens lots of doors, including the door to a less-censored Internet.
Much has recently been made on the censorship of China’s social media after a deadly Ferrari crash in Beijing over the weekend set China’s Weibo platforms a-twitter. Rumor has it that the illegitimate son of Mr. Jia Qinglin, member of the ultra-powerful Politburo Standing Committee, was behind the wheel. Many news outlets have reported that the word “Ferrari” has been censored on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platforms since the news broke.
Except it hasn’t been. The Chinese word for Ferrari, “法拉利”, is indeed censored; the user is informed that the term cannot be viewed because of “relevant rules and regulations.” But as the below images show, simply inputting the brand’s original, Romanized name, “Ferrari,” yields over 290,000 hits.
Indeed, netizens who can read and write English (or, it must be noted, Italian) have been discussing the issue with no obstructions, and apparently no fear. On Sina Weibo itself, @李老鸣 wrote in English and without apparent irony: ”Sina deleted all microblog posts which mentioned the accident, and blocked online searches of the word ‘Ferrari.’”
This gap in China’s Internet censorship is large enough to drive a truck containing 292,096 netizens through. Once again, simply using English on Weibo has potent effects.
Did the censors simply miss this obvious work-around? Are they foolish enough to think netizens can’t use the English language to communicate intelligently?
Unlikely. Instead, censors appear to have decided not to worry about the (not so small) minority of netizens savvy enough to read and to seek out English-language sources. China’s government appears to believe these people lie outside the “mainstream” of public opinion, and would likely find a way to get the information they desired anyway.
So gather ’round, netizens, and say what you will. And keep brushing up on that English vocabulary–it will serve you well.