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Zeynep Tufekci: “Are China’s Tantrums Signs of Strength or Weakness?”

In her first column since becoming a contributing writer for The Atlantic, UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS) Associate Professor Zeynep Tufekci discusses the potential reasons why China is demanding significant censorship from Western companies in the absence of a real threat.A nighttime photo of a white statue holding a folded umbrella and flag that reads "Free Hong Kong" on a crowded city street.

China pressures Western companies to censor small matters like an app or a gamer despite boycotts and backlash. Tufekci thinks that China either knows exactly what it is doing or it is aimlessly making shortsighted decisions.

“The theory here is that China is happy to take backlash now, in return for the longer-term goal of having companies self-censor without needing to be prodded,” she writes. “Or, alternatively, in this truly global and interconnected world, China might be experiencing its own form of failure and weakness… A mixture of authoritarian malaise and loss of agility might be causing the country to lash out, without proper strategic analysis.”A nighttime shot of a crowded Hong Kong city street.

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Photos taken by Zeynep Tufekci during her visit to Hong Kong in October. She shared photos and videos of the trip on Twitter @zeynep.