A Confucian Look at Internet Censorship in China

  • Yubo KouEmail author
  • Bryan Semaan
  • Bonnie Nardi
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 10513)


China’s Internet censorship practices are sophisticated and pervasive. Academic research and media reports have examined the Chinese government’s varied, expansive methods of censorship and Chinese citizens’ techniques of subverting them, but little attention has been paid to understanding how Chinese citizens think about censorship in their everyday lives. We conducted a qualitative study of Chinese mainland citizens who circumvented censorship. We found seemingly contradictory attitudes and practices among our participants. They showed proficiency at bypassing censorship, but were sometimes comfortable with censored information. They were willing to share sensitive information with others, but saw the benefits of limiting the public’s access to information under certain circumstances. We examine how the complex, nuanced attitudes toward censorship resonate with the classic teachings of Confucianism, China’s traditional philosophical and ethical system.


Censorship China Confucianism Social media 



We are grateful to our participants for sharing their practices around censorship and offering candid thoughts about China’s censorship. We thank Xinning Gui for early discussions of the Confucian framework. We thank the anonymous reviewers at INTERACT 2017 for their constructive and insightful feedback that helped strengthen the paper, as well as their open-mindedness to this paper’s findings and interpretive perspective which is different from the dominant view of censorship in the West.


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Copyright information

© IFIP International Federation for Information Processing 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Purdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  2. 2.School of Information StudiesSyracuse UniversitySyracuseUSA
  3. 3.Department of InformaticsUniversity of CaliforniaIrvineUSA

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