China is a country defined by many aspects of its culture: its art, food, and dialects are admired around the world, but censored within the mainland. Chinese-language news outlets that are not state-owned, an easy access to information outside of the Communist Party’s rhetoric, are not available in mainland China.

The effects of this censorship can be felt especially within the diplomatic sphere. Overseas Chinese-language news outlets, which are far less likely to adhere to China’s trendy Communist Party rhetoric, are blocked, leaving countless expat-Chinese citizens unable to access the news from their homes. Even for those in mainland China who use a virtual private network to connect from abroad, these news sites remain out of reach.

At times of tension in the country, the censorship of these news sites only intensifies. However, these events also invite the censoring of international English language websites like the BBC, as it too can contain content that contradicts the Communist Party’s rhetoric. As a result, the English-language media, despite not being as heavily censored, are still susceptible to filtering by the Chinese government.

In 2020, the nationwide clampdown on press freedoms in China intensified and left Chinese-language journalists without a platform for their work. With the aid of a virtual private network, some press freedoms have been granted back to these journalists; however, for the majority, the controlled and filtered information from the government is all that is available.

Despite the censorship of Chinese-language news outlets, the censorship of international English language websites is something that the Chinese government keeps a closer eye on. It is the Chinese government’s ultimate goal to maintain a powerful image and unbiased partytopia, much of which is achieved by controlling the information available to the country’s people.

Despite the lack of access to non-state-owned Chinese-language news outlets, these overseas press entities still provide some hope to those within mainland China. While these news outlets are widely censored by the Chinese government, they often express narratives and opinions that are different to those of the Communist Party– opinions which serve as guiding principles for Chinese nationals.

In the current geopolitical climate, it is more important than ever for us to stay informed. We must not forget the ongoing global struggle for press freedom and expression, especially in mainland China, where the media censorship is darker and more oppressive than ever before. Despite this hardship, the country’s citizens and dissenting journalists are pushing for the truth; and, with a bit of luck, the Communist Party’s iron-clad grip may eventually weaken enough to let their voices be heard.