First, I apologize for the long delay in writing this post. For the past several months, I have been going through the stages of grief over our repatriation to the U.S from China. It’s great to be back in the States for a variety of reasons. You know, family plus clean air, water, and food — the little things. But I do miss our life in Shanghai and, in particular, the many great Chinese and expat friends I made during our time there. I miss all of them very much.
It has also taken me time to write, because I knew this would be the last post for Lost In Shanghai. I have loved writing this blog. And I have been gratified by the number of people who have found this window into expat life helpful. So this last post is important and, sitting here in the U.S., I’ve decided to write about the one aspect of living in China that I couldn’t discuss while there…the suppression of information by the Chinese government. This has been on my mind of late as avenues of communication have been under attack here in the U.S. with fake news, alternative facts, and out right lying. Keeping “social harmony” is one of the great objectives of China’s government. Not riling up the country’s 1.4 billion people is the reason for most of their censorship rules. As I was writing Lost In Shanghai for the last four years, I had to keep the reality of Chinese censorship in my mind. I heard stories of blogs being shut down if they went afoul of China’s hard and fast censorship rules.
Censorship was not on my mind when I started. The objective of my blog was simple: Keep friends and family back home apprised of our life and travels in Asia, while providing assistance and guidance for Westerners planning to make a move to China. None of that should be offensive to anyone, but I was always conscious of what I wrote, particularly if it involved my Chinese friends. I didn’t write my posts with rose-colored lenses, just a consciousness that Chinese censors were reading my blog, and they were not shy about that. The platform I use for this blog is WordPress, which is blocked by the Chinese government. Whenever I looked at the stats page of Lost In Shanghai to see who was reading from what country, there were always a couple of readers from China – impossible for Chinese citizens, but not the government. These readers were censors.
I should not have been surprised. WordPress is not the only site blocked by the Chinese government. The New York Times, Facebook, Google, and many others are blocked. The irony of this tight government control inside the borders of China is that the Chinese people have passed Americans as the most travelled people on the planet and almost all the places they go have freedom of information. So all the media outlets blocked in China are available to them when they travel. Add to that the growth of Virtual Private Network (VPN) routers, despite VPN’s being illegal in China, and the government control over the information accessible to Chinese citizens is becoming shaky at best.
So, I say all this because censorship really pisses me off. I have no time for it in China, and definitely no time for it in the U.S. “Alternative facts” also concern me. Censorship and other forms of information management ignore the fundamental rights and human nature of individuals. I can only hope that the governments in China and the U.S. discover the power and benefits of an informed public. The world would certainly be a better place.
As for me, I intend to stay true to the truth. This is my last Lost In Shanghai post. So I no longer need to write with censorship in mind as a I once did. I am launching a new blog soon, Lost In Detroit (lostindetroit.com). I intend to dive into this city like I did Shanghai. Detroit changed in the four years I was gone and is becoming one of the most interesting and cutting edge cities in the U.S. Sure, it is not as exotic as Shanghai, but then nothing is.
I have a similar objective for my new blog as I did for my last. Keep everybody, particularly those we left behind in China, up to speed on our life and travels, while hopefully providing guidance to anyone thinking about making a move to this rebounding, dynamic city. Dining, drink, culture, sports, life — I intend to document it all. My deep thanks to all who supported Lost In Shanghai so heartily for the last four years. Hopefully, the same will be said for Lost In Detroit. Thanks and see you in the D!