We Share. We Do Not Censor

Isaac Mao
Isaac Mao is a blogger from the People’s Republic of China.
He is co-founder of CNBlog.org  and a co-organizer of the Chinese Blogger Conference. In 2005, he started the movement for adopting Chinese bloggers on overseas servers. He divides his time between research, social works, business and technology. He was a Berkman Fellow 2008/2009.


China is in many ways a huge future challenge – for itself, its people and the world. Take a worldview of China and the first thing that strikes you is the sheer magnitude of the new economic super power. There is no doubt that China is ready to act as a global trendsetter and leader (see p. 135 of this issue where Shai Agassi makes the same point with reference to China’s role in the electric car industry). The Chinese government well knows how to execute sweeping ideas and rapidly mobilise mass  infrastructure. All the signs in China are set for rapid relentless growth. But what is the price to be paid for this? And who will pick up the tab?

Isaac Mao argues that every Chinese citizen – regardless of whether they are members of the Communist Party or not – will pay the price and that everyone will be called on to make huge sacrifices. But the question Isaac asks is whether such sacrifices are really necessary – whether there aren’t any better ways to succeed. And his answer is yes there are – with Sharism!

Isaac took an early leadership role in the Chinese online community. His simple but far-reaching mission is to make China a better place to live in by sharing worldwide knowledge! For him knowledge is the key to a sustainable future of all the people of China. In pursuit of this goal, he advocates providing people with uncensored access to the Internet and he also wants to make them aware that the government is censoring the net. His idea of Sharism is thus a critical tool for abolishing the Great Firewall of China.

Isaac Mao first introduced the term four years ago to describe a way of sharing your work (everything) within your social network (or public domain) while still retaining all the rights you wish to retain. Sharism can be practiced easily and at any time when communicating with others – writing blogs, posting photos or organizing offline meet-ups for group discussions, etc. And if you don’t want to practice it, you simply don’t share because Sharism is based on a person’s own individual decision. Sharism is actually a very simple idea and part of our human nature. It should be practised on a daily basis. Sharism is not an assault on other people’s rights. It’s a very personalized mindset and practical spirit. When you practise Sharism you can gradually feel the change operating as you become more open-minded, more knowledgeable, and as your social capital increases. Because the more you share the more you receive.

To translate the theory of Sharism into action, free access to the Internet is of the essence. Sharism itself is critical for overcoming censorship in China. As Isaac Mao says, “There is a ridiculous race going on about censorship in China. Those in power try to get their hands on the very best technology    available. But those fighting censorship are actually the ones with this technology and they are the very ones who make it available to undermine the Great Firewall of China. The very ones who share!”

That Sharism is indeed an effective force can be seen from the following example: even though Twitter is officially banned in China each Sunday afternoon without fail the hash tag #GFW (= Great Firewall of China) reaches the No.1 slot in the Chinese Twitter charts – charts that are based on Chinese IP-addresses. The Chinese “twittersphere” is a vivid demonstration of how “easy” it is to bypass the system by sharing. A group of people working on technology tools shares them and their ideas to give people uncensored access to the net. Yet bypassing or helping to do so the Great Firewall of China is  actually a very dangerous enterprise that can easily land people in prison or seriously restrict the lives they lead. The government is tightening the screws on this target group. So what still leads them to combat censorship? Isaac Mao’s view is that “For China as a whole it is very important that all people have access to knowledge. Knowledge is the key to a better life. If people know and understand, they can start to act! And I am NOT talking about a revolution; I am NOT talking about overthrowing the government. I am talking about access to basic knowledge for the  average Chinese citizen. People should know about the environmental damage the incredible rate of economic growth is bringing with it. They should know how to deal with breast cancer. They should know about the death of natural resources and the damage done to nature. Chinese people need to become aware of these problems. They need to know that they exist. They need to know that censorship exists. They need to gain awareness. Because if they know they will understand. And if they understand – they will act! And the more people act, the greater is the probability that change for the better will happen. If they don’t know, nothing will happen.” So how can change   really be achieved? “Look,” Mao points out, “today only 27% of all Chinese people have access to the Internet. And they’re mainly on the east coast, the further you go inland the rarer Internet access becomes. Even so, China still is the world’s premier Internet country – in terms of the absolute numbers of people with access. Chinese is the most written language on the net. Yet all this is just with a mere 27% of the people. So imagine what would happen if the idea of Sharism reaches just 10% of our online community – it will make them a force to be reckoned with practically overnight!”

The idea of Sharism spreads by the mouth-to mouth communication – online and offline. And it has now caught the interest of entrepreneurs and business angels as young successful Chinese business men operating mainly out of Taiwan and Hong Kong are planning to implement Sharism in their software, hardware and business applications. Sharism software is pretty easy to image – it means things like Wikipedia or social translation platforms like yeeyan.com. But what about the hardware? Isaac Mao smiles and explains, “We want to design a credit system in hardware so that people can easily   generate credits based on their sharing activities – meaning you gain points by sharing. And then people can change their credit points into real currency. PayPal and adverts, to give but two examples, can be embedded in hardware – and this is what makes a business application based on an individual decision to share or not to share. Imagine that individuals can share via Facebook, Twitter and all the other social media tools. This gives a huge potential for increasing the capital of Sharism. And this is the sort of pipeline we are now planning …”

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