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Understanding Support for Internet Censorship in China: An Elaboration of the Theory of Reasoned Action
Unformatted Document Text:  RUNNING HEAD: Understanding Support for Internet Censorship in China 2 Introduction In April, 2008, Jack Cafferty, host of CNN’s news magazine The Situation Room gave a tirade of insulting comments about China. His words, translated into Chinese, quickly spread on the Internet and stirred up a wave of protests by Chinese communities worldwide. Opinions were split, however, even within mainland China, although expressions of anger and demand for apologies dominated. When asked why he refused to participate in any of the protest activities, the iconic young Chinese writer Han Han replied, in terse sarcasm, “You do realize that the program people want to boycott is banned in this country” (Asia Week, 2010, p. 13) 1 . The dust eventually settled following an apology by CNN, but the irony of the event raises serious and intriguing questions for communication scholars. Why do people support censorship on political information? What is it in some messages that make them appealing and repulsive to people at the same time? What cognitive calculations are at work to sway perceptions toward or away from acceptance of censorship? China has a long history of institutionalized censorship and its citizens, perhaps more than people anywhere else, have developed a particular sensitivity to alternative sources of information (Cao, 2009). The bulk of the official energy to limit access was devoted to making sure that unwarranted information be kept strictly outside of public discourse. The emergence of the Internet as a public, open, and interactive platform of message display has created a painful dilemma for authorities in China. On the one 1 In China, CNN is only accessible legitimately in starred hotels and illegitimately via personal satellite dish.

Authors: Feng, Guangchao.
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RUNNING HEAD: Understanding Support for Internet Censorship in China 
2
Introduction 
In April, 2008, Jack Cafferty, host of CNN’s news magazine The Situation Room gave 
a tirade of insulting comments about China. His words, translated into Chinese, 
quickly spread on the Internet and stirred up a wave of protests by Chinese 
communities worldwide. Opinions were split, however, even within mainland China, 
although expressions of anger and demand for apologies dominated. When asked why 
he refused to participate in any of the protest activities, the iconic young Chinese 
writer Han Han replied, in terse sarcasm, “You do realize that the program people 
want to boycott is banned in this country” (Asia Week, 2010, p. 13)
The dust eventually settled following an apology by CNN, but the irony of the 
event raises serious and intriguing questions for communication scholars. Why do 
people support censorship on political information? What is it in some messages that 
make them appealing and repulsive to people at the same time? What cognitive 
calculations are at work to sway perceptions toward or away from acceptance of 
censorship?  
China has a long history of institutionalized censorship and its citizens, perhaps 
more than people anywhere else, have developed a particular sensitivity to alternative 
sources of information (Cao, 2009). The bulk of the official energy to limit access was 
devoted to making sure that unwarranted information be kept strictly outside of public 
discourse. The emergence of the Internet as a public, open, and interactive platform of 
message display has created a painful dilemma for authorities in China. On the one 
                                                        
1
  In China, CNN is only accessible legitimately in starred hotels and illegitimately via personal satellite dish. 


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