US Free Speech vs China’s Censorship

The US-China trade clash centers on intellectual property theft. “An underlying factor is the Chinese government’s rigorous censorship of imported cultural products,” explains Ge Chen, professor of law. The US Constitution protects speech as a check against excessive government power with the First Amendment and describes the purpose of copyrights to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” After early printing technology emerged, China allowed the practice of duplicating copies in the 10th century but only with government permission. “In Sino-US trade talks at the end of the 19th century, the Qing government agreed to copyright protection for books from US publishers on the condition that the government would censor politically sensitive content beforehand,” Chen explains. Versions of the policy have been in place since, with only a few disruptions like the Cultural Revolution. Such policies attract public curiosity to banned works and associated devices, he concludes, and China’s “entrenched system of suffocating the free flow of ideas is bound to buttress the legitimacy of piracy in China and generate conflict with any tangible or intangible products carrying free speech.” He concludes strong copyright protection by China for both domestic and foreign creators would eventually promote freedom of expression. – YaleGlobal