The exercise of discipline over the Internet by the Chinese party- state is very well known. The state restricts access to many types of information and harshly pun- ishes those who gain access to it....

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The exercise of discipline over the Internet by the Chinese party- state is very well
known. The state restricts access to many types of information and harshly pun-
ishes those who gain access to it. This state discipline is observable from a national
level, where a “Great Firewall” blocks access to websites and Internet services, to
a local level, where Internet cafes are closely monitored and supervised by police.
While it is very diffi cult to assess, from the perspective of the party- state, what it
would take for this policy to be considered successful or effective, it is undeniable
that the discipline of the state shapes online life in China.
The consequences of this situation have had interesting effects on the Chinese
Internet. In a complex, pluralist, internationalized medium such as the Internet,
discipline has its limits. Strategies of supervision and discipline can be avoided or
subverted by users who have sufficient knowledge or desire to do so. The methods
of circumventing discipline can be technical, such as the use of virtual private
networks (VPNs), or based in the manipulation of discourse, such as the invention
of coded words to avoid censorship. The high level of circumvention of online
discipline necessitates the study of methods of control other than supervision,
censorship, and punishment. Børge Bakken XXXXXXXXXXsuggests that, in China, the
“disciplinary society” can be complemented with an analysis of the “exemplary
society” (pp. 5–6). The disciplinary society depends on the classic Foucauldian
techniques of surveillance, discipline, and punishment; the exemplary society
interacts with the world of discipline by providing models of good and desirable
ehavior which, through sufficient education and inculcation, individuals will
eventually come to emulate.
This chapter argues that, in contrast to the offline world, the Chinese party-
state has been less able to develop coherent non - disciplinary strategies to control
Internet use and users. In parallel with this, the development by citizens of dis-
tinctive methods of Internet use – symbols, images, and linguistic techniques in
particular – has had the dual effect of subverting the online discipline of the state
and of creating netizens’ own models of behavior. This analysis is sited contextu-
ally within the ongoing debates about stability in China. The doctrine of social
stability has been a lynchpin of state discourse in China since the beginning of
the reform period: in Bakken’s terms, stability is now a form of state exemplar,
3 “The corpses were
emotionally stable”
Agency and passivity on
the Chinese Internet
Jonathan Benney
China Online : Locating Society in Online Spaces, edited by Peter Marolt, and David Kurt Herold, Taylor & Francis Group, 2014.
XXXXXXXXXXProQuest Ebook Central, http:
ebookcentral.proquest.com/li
monash/detail.action?docID=1829334.
Created from monash on XXXXXXXXXX:39:18.
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34 Jonathan Benney
applied to individuals’ emotional lives as well as to the Chinese economy and the
totality of Chinese society. From the mid- 2000s onwards, the development of a
formal stability maintenance ( weiwen ) apparatus, which has appropriated some of
the functions of the regular law enforcement structure, has turned this discourse
from a much- discussed principle to a practical reality.
This chapter examines how this enhanced discourse of stability, together with
the more practical threat of the stability maintenance apparatus, is affecting online
life. In particular it demonstrates that the development of a subversive online argot
has allowed Chinese Internet users to identify this stability discourse, to decon-
struct and to satirize it, to identify that it is opposed on a conceptual level to the
agency of the individual, and to form networks which have the potential to oppose
it. The labeling of the so- called bei society (the “passive society”) has allowed
netizens both to pinpoint this discourse of passivity and identify that it comes from
the party- state. Internet users on message boards, blogs, and social networking
sites are thus making a statement about their perceived lack of agency and at the
same time expressing their fundamental mistrust of the language of the state. Even
so, it is worth questioning whether this culture of u
ane, transgressive resistance
has any real effect on Chinese political discourse or even on its own users.
Negotiating stability online
Two particularly deep problems form the core of this chapter’s analysis: the rise
of the Internet, and the state doctrine of stability. Both of these challenge the
traditional picture of Chinese society as controlled by the party- state: the Internet
through its poorly regulated and constant fl ow of information, and the doctrine
of stability through its clash with the active, revolutionary rhetoric of traditional
Maoist discourse. To consider the Internet fi rst: it is now undeniable that websites,
email, blogs, and so on have increased the diversity of information available to
citizens in China. Information may now reach the user from a wide- ranging and
diverse range of sources, refl ecting the views of people from many different places
and with many different ideologies: the microblog site Weibo is the clearest mani-
festation of this. What is more, the Internet has provided a vast forum for new
modes of satire and parody, which are both done simply for amusement’s sake
and also as a means of criticizing offi cials and offi cial ideologies (Li, 2011, p. 72).
Compared to
oadcast media, for example, offi cial state discourse online is at risk
of being ignored in favor of more exciting or realistic spectacles, or, even worse,
eing lampooned and mocked.
The risks of the Internet to hegemons are well established. The discourse of sta-
ility, however, provides a more complex challenge to state discourse. Elizabeth
Pe
y XXXXXXXXXXmakes the argument that the Chinese party- state is at root still a
fundamentally revolutionary organization, one that is maintaining “both the ideo-
logical and the organizational features of its revolutionary past” (Pe
y, 2007,
p. 22). The revolutionary society, she argues, “demands active engagement . . .
y society” (Pe
y, 2007, p. 21), but, by definition, never moves towards substan-
tial citizen representation, democratization, and so on. Developments in modern
China Online : Locating Society in Online Spaces, edited by Peter Marolt, and David Kurt Herold, Taylor & Francis Group, 2014.
XXXXXXXXXXProQuest Ebook Central, http:
ebookcentral.proquest.com/li
monash/detail.action?docID=1829334.
Created from monash on XXXXXXXXXX:39:18.
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Agency and passivity on the Chinese Internet 35
China, however, complicate the questions of public engagement. Specifically, the
active em
ace of a language of “stability” from the mid- 2000s onwards calls the
label of “revolutionary authoritarianism” into question and suggests that what
Pe
y herself anticipated is beginning to come true: that the economic and social
situation has developed in such a way that the Chinese state is moving from a
evolutionary outlook to “stable authoritarianism” – the paradox of this being that
the deregulation that allowed for such rapid economic development is in itself one
of the main factors that is harming China’s stability.
Since the Deng period, stability has been used in China as a “cognitive filter”
used to enhance the legitimacy of the state (Sandby- Thomas, 2011, p. 33). Peter
Sandby- Thomas identifies three key categories in which stability has been used
in official Chinese discourse: national stability, economic stability, and social sta-
ility (Sandby- Thomas, 2011, p. 51). National or political stability, in the sense
that the government never changes, is a natural desideratum of the authoritarian
state. Economic stability is prima facie used to signify low unemployment and
stability in prices; in the Chinese context it commonly also signifies economic
growth (Sandby- Thomas, 2011, p. 87), despite having been much internal debate
at a policy level about the distinction between growth and stability (see Dittmer &
Wu, 2006, p. 73). Social stability, in the sense that the world around the individual
does not change dramatically from day to day, is a separate issue, and one which
is more likely to clash with the Chinese party- state’s revolutionary outlook.
But beyond social stability, there also lies emotional stability, in the sense that
the individual’s experience of, and emotional response to, life does not change
dramatically. The desire for state subjects to be emotionally stable, in particular
that they are not openly angry or dissatisfied, has been implicit in the post- Mao
party- state project since Deng Xiaoping took power. The state discourses of sta-
ility, of being “moderately well off” ( dadao xiaokang shuiping ), of achieving
human quality ( suzhi ), of the “harmonious society” ( hexie shehui ), and of the
creating of a “wealthy, educated, consuming, and above all ‘responsible’ middle
class” (Tomba, 2009, p. 596), have constantly been intertwined (Schoenhals,
1999; Tomba, XXXXXXXXXXThus, the promotion of the idea of stability in government
discourse is never simply restricted to one epistemological sphere. It is linked
inherently to the discourse of cultivation of citizens and the development of
“civilization”: and in both of these desired states, the primacy and authority of the
party- state is never supposed to be questioned (see, for example, Dynon, 2008).
The word “stability” ( wending ) is frequently used in official Chinese news
sources, such as the People’s Daily newspaper and Chinese Central Television
(CCTV) programs. Since the beginning of the reform period, it has generally been
used as a catch- all label for any states of affairs desired by the state: it “was
always presented in a nominalized form that served to ‘mystify’ its definition
and thus allowed it to be discursively flexible” (Sandby- Thomas, 2011, p. 155).
Rather than having much to
Answered 5 days AfterApr 07, 2022

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Ananya answered on Apr 12 2022
10 Votes
ARTICLE REVIEW
The article by Benney (2014) argues that the online society of China has created a huge impact on both the social and mental health of the people. The process of retrieving any information at just a click is intrigued day by day without evaluating the evidence of it. The main point of the argument demonstrates that the state and the political association of China is trying to
ing a stability in the use of online resources in China by maintaining their linguistic stability, which are altered by the individual approach of changing their use of language. The state aims in controlling the disciplinary approach of the society by stabilising the use of the internet through the usage of basic linguistic communication. The author supported her view with the evidence of the construction of stability models by the state such as the Hen Huang and the Hen Baoli Stability models to produce approved content to...
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