"The Internet is not a land beyond law"

Digital interactions between state and society during China’s Covid-19 pandemic

  • Tyler Lynch Author
Keywords: china, internet, ccp, coronavirus, covid-19, covid, pandemic, wuhan, li wenliang, politics, state, society, industry, digital, technology, modern china, censorship, resistance, social media, whistleblower


In this paper, I examine the use of the Internet in China during the 2020 coronavirus outbreak by both society and state, focusing on the period of December 2019 to mid-March 2020. I argue that the relationship between popular expression and state censorship may best be described as a dynamic equilibrium, where public expression is controlled by government censorship, and state control is mitigated by popular outcry. I also analyze the interactions between state and industry in designing and implement Internet-based technologies to combat coronavirus. I detail the extent of state Internet censorship of critical narratives and information regarding Covid-19, with focus given to the treatment of whistleblowers, especially Dr. Li Wenliang, which I argue evinces the effectiveness of online public outcry in mitigating state censorship. I conclude that while China's Internet is still primarily defined by state censorship, the Internet is an increasingly effective medium for public outcry against government mismanagement.