Apparently China needs censorship because Chinese people are stupid….

….that is the justification offered by a Chinese journalist in this article related to the Google vs China row (blow by blow at Ars technica here). This quote is shocking:

The Chinese society has generally less information bearing capacity than developed countries such as the U.S., which is an objective reality that no one can deny. Chinese intellectuals living in China should show understanding to the motherland’s weakness.

18 replies
  1. rauparaha
    rauparaha says:

    Well, there are objective differences between groups of people, but this one seems pretty hard to justify. Unless you’re a part of the ruling class who needs a reason to keep a billion people under your thumb!

  2. ben
    ben says:

    That view is a pre-requisite for all paternalistic policy. The starting point is that people do not know what is good for themselves, leaving room for government to come in and fix.

    All that’s happened is somebody finally said it.

  3. Matt Nolan
    Matt Nolan says:


    It is a pre-req for paternalistic policy by definition, agreed. However, I think the debate is often about whether a policy is paternalistic or where it is:

    1) There to solve an externality,
    2) There to provide a mechanism to improve choice (give information, allow people to pre-commit actions),
    3) There to improve outcomes when there is a co-ordination problem.

    Clever policy analysts will never explicitly say they think people are stupid, they will actually try to figure out what is going on. Of course, I’ve met many moronic policy analysts who will say we should implement policy because people are stupid …

  4. Eric Crampton
    Eric Crampton says:

    Why am I thinking of the Chimpokomon episode of South Park and the Japanese rationale for why they couldn’t possibly be considering invading the US….

  5. Beth Charette
    Beth Charette says:

    Actually, the Chinese position on censorship is to virtually copy the policies of the West during the 1940’s and 50’s.

    China believes the West was at its peak then, and since then the drowning of Western cultures in porn and negative messaging has thrown the cultures back substantially. For example, when we had the censorship policies of the 40’s and 50’s, our students were the best in the world. Now the West, is behind every major developed Asian nation. In other words, contrary to being stupid, the Chinese are copying Western culture when we were at our best. Already they are drowning the West in terms of engineers and other knowledge areas, and will continue to do so. The West’s hard science graduate programs at Western universities are populated not by Westerners but by Asians. As we experience a zero savings rate and 10% unemployment, the Chinese have a 3% unemployment rate and 10% growth rate. Who is stupid?


    ToysPeriod is a leading online shop specializing in lego sets and model railroad equipment.

  6. Matt Nolan
    Matt Nolan says:

    @Beth Charette

    Some points:

    1) I don’t believe any of the facts you put forward – the US was substantially poorer in the 40’s and 50’s, and educational achievements were a lot lower then they are now. Also where does the idea that educational achievements are among the lowest in the developed world come from.

    2) Reducing people liberties to achieve arbitrary outcomes like “educational outcomes” is not a good way to run policy.

    3) The idea that “culture has deteriorated” is crap. Rose tinted glasses about the past in my opinion. Also culture is a name for a current situation, it is not a goal in itself.

    4) The US is in absolute terms more wealthy than Japan + Germany + China. In per capita terms the difference in wealth is even more stark. Getting 10% growth when you are exceptionally poor is to be expected, but it doesn’t make Chinese policy better.

    5) We aren’t the ones saying Chinese people are stupid, they are just as smart as other people – after all they are people. We were complaining that their own media appears to be saying that they are stupid – something that we find distasteful. In fact, by hiding behind the concept of “culture” to justify limiting liberties and knowledge you are effectively saying the same thing.

  7. Ladies Leather Jackets
    Ladies Leather Jackets says:

    Chinese people are NOT stupid. In fact They are one of the smartest people on earth.
    They just don’t want to follow western’s cultures and mentalities which are deteriorating on their opinion.

  8. Vladimir
    Vladimir says:

    If it was not the citation, I would think that it is a joke or anicdote!
    Shame to Chinese journalist!
    Не don’t like his nation!

  9. steve
    steve says:

    could the comment mean something different than “stupid”?

    the only explanation I have is that if their background knowledge on world affairs (or whatever) is lacking, then how do they understand the flood of information that is thrown at them? If they had the same background knowledge as westerners, then they would have the capacity to bear the same information as westerners.

    Its a bit of a stretch, but are you sure we are not simply misinterpreting the chinese journalists translation to english?

  10. steve
    steve says:

    in fact if you click on the article this is exactly what it describes is “China will certainly and gradually change this reality, but the starting point of the change should be in the interests of the entire Chinese society instead of for the convenience or desire of a small group of people.”

    if it is possible to change this then the quote is not suggesting that chinese are stupid genetically, only that they lack the education and knowledge to have the capacity for the vast ammount of information on the internet at the moment.

    I suppose the thought track is that too much information too quickly will be misinterpreted and misunderstood, and this will lead to social unrest and possibly social upheaval. This therefore must be a mistake of the past where China was so closed, and therefore China must be ‘eased’ into it, similar to how China is being ‘eased’ into a capitalist society.

  11. Matt Nolan
    Matt Nolan says:

    @Ladies Leather Jackets



    “if it is possible to change this then the quote is not suggesting that Chinese are stupid genetically, only that they lack the education and knowledge to have the capacity for the vast amount of information on the internet at the moment.”

    I guess it is because we still view that as absolutely ridiculous. Governments should not decide how much information their citizens are allowed access to – unless the creation of that information involves hurting other people.

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