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China’s Internet: The Biggest Influencer Is the State

How China uses social metrics to guide its censorship strategy

The Chinese Communist Party’s response to champion doubles tennis player Peng Shuai was about more than just dismissing an accusation and protecting a high-ranking Party member. It was about silencing influencers and suppressing social mobilization. In a previous article, we looked at how Beijing’s propaganda machine used fake Twitter accounts to amplify messaging around tennis champion Peng Shuai after she disappeared from the public and was censored on the Chinese internet. Wilson Center scholar Rui Zhong writes in Wired magazine, “This is not about topics. This censorship is fundamentally about the dismantling of social resources.” Rui Zhong’s article is helpful in contextualizing the Chinese Communist Party’s targets for online censorship. She says that most analyses of Chinese internet censorship focus on specific words, phrases, or topics, rather…

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Tennis ball in net on flag China background.

Peng Shuai Backtracks Her Accusations

This comes as no surprise to anyone who knows how China's propaganda works

On December 19, Peng Shuai was stopped by a journalist with Singaporean Chinese-language state-owned newspaper Lianhe Zaobao while she was in Shanghai for the International Ski Federation’s Cross-Country Skiing China City Tour. The Wall Street Journal reports that journalist Chen Qingqing, of the Chinese state media mouthpiece Global Times, posted a short video on Twitter of Peng with former NBA and CBA basketball player and current chairman of the China Basketball Association, Yao Ming hours before the Lianhe Zaobao interview was posted. In the interview Peng said that she never said or wrote about anyone sexually assaulting her. The Wall Street Journal reports: “There’s been a lot of misunderstanding,” Ms. Peng said in an interview, describing the situation as touching on “my personal privacy.” “There shouldn’t be any distorted interpretations,” she…

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#WhereIsPengShuai: China’s Star Tennis Player Went Missing

Peng re-appeared after two weeks, but her disappearance sparked a global outcry against human rights violations under the Chinese Communist Party

On November 2, two-time tennis doubles champion, singles semifinalist, and three-time Olympian Peng Shuai posted on her Weibo account an essay accusing the former vice premier of China, Zhang Gaoli, of rape and coercion. They had an on-and-off relationship that began ten years ago and, reportedly, had a fight several days before her post. (A partial translation of her post can be found here.) In 2014 Peng was the number one tennis doubles champion, having won two Grand Slams, and has toured with the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). She has also appeared in three Olympics for China. Zhang is a retired vice premier of the highest governing body in China, the Politburo Standing Committee, and unlike other government officials who have…