of Chinese pay 2 yuan an hour to chat over OICQ, listen to music,
watch Hong Kong movies,
search for English essays to cop off as their own or slaughter each
other in some video game. Plotting to overthrow the government doesn't
seem to rank in the top ten of favorite web-based past-times.
the PRC isn't taking any chances. There are a number of sites that
are inaccessible from China, such as anything to do with the Falun
Gong and anything written in the Los Angeles Times. Emails
are also not safe. The Ministry of Post and Telecommunications
hand in hand with the long arm of the Public Security Bureau
scan chatrooms and email messages for keywords (let's rebel!
most likely a hot one) and these messages are promptly erased
and the user's account terminated.
teacher in Henan
was recently apprehended for posting a critical essay of the regime;
students in Beijing woke up to find not only their accounts flushed
but their computers confiscated and themselves under question. Emails
bursting with dissent never find their recipients or arrive much
later than the email describing last night's dinner.
the dissent email does arrive. And if I go through Yahoo!, both
the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times are available,
although Falun Gong articles are still off-limits. The firewall
the government puts up to control the flow doesn't work it is
no barrier to the information, if the information is sought with
enough fervor. And Jiang
and his buddies know this, hence the recent crackdown on Internet
bars across the nation. Licenses and computers were collected by
the thousands. The point was not to restore control, but to restore
a healthy fear.
companies are kept out by the standard "no foreign ownership allowed"
the same clause which protects virtually every sagging industry
in China while Jitong charges ridiculous rates for its provider
service. They have to prepare for the WTO, ya know. The stranglehold
on service providers is not as tight as it seems several small
Beijing and Shanghai-based companies have received licenses to provide
hookups, albeit on a small scale.
young people who frequent the local net-bar have no clue how, or
even if the government is monitoring what they are saying, but the
very shadow of the grand Communist Party over their shoulder is
enough to stop all thoughts of defiance OICQ chats revolve more
around deviance. The sexual revolution is in full swing whilst the
political revolution is on the backburner for now my buddies
here in Chongqing
all have OICQ girlfriends, some of whom even become flesh and blood.
government has managed to instill the same wariness in websurfers
that it has in marketplace shoppers concerning the government and
the authorities, but the PSB
doesn't care too much about sex, so people can now express in shocking
detail over the web those desires they cannot express in normal
the CIA must ensure the freedom of all web users in China, as they
no doubt do in the grand 'ol USA. The CIA's "venture capital" arm,
situated in Silicon Valley, is financing a company called Safeweb
which specializes in "safe servers" the kind a government cannot
get into as easily as it wants to.
the International Broadcasting Bureau of Voice of America fame
Safeweb plans to market its "safe software" to the Chinese, who
so desperately need it to keep the government out of their political
scheming. I'm sure the CIA feels such software will speed up the
rise of the Chinese laobaixing (literally Old Hundred Names,
i.e. commoners) against their Communist-Capitalist (capitalists
are allowed to be members of the Party now) oppressors.
this is a waste of our money not that any taxpayers care, or
else the American Old Hundred Names would have risen
a long time ago.
the web is pretty free here in China, considering that it is
China. I can access most articles I need to and most websites
I want to and I have definitely written enough scandalous remarks
about Jiang and the Communist Party that They should have come looking
for me if They had that much control.
dragon uses its shadow to control the thoughts of the people, while
slowly relaxing its grip on the web in order to squeeze as much
economic gain out of it as possible. AOL
and its ilk are drooling like any other foreign business over the
possibility of providing service to a growing market of millions.
The Chinese leadership knows this. Sooner or later, foreign companies
will be allowed to move in, on China's terms, and pour more booty
onto the pile in the dragon's lair.
I think most people vastly overestimate the latent political activism
here. News about the Tiananmen Massacre including the photo of
guy and the tank are readily available to anyone who cares.
But my students still look at me in bewilderment when I mention
kids like them dying. After the bewilderment passes, they skip off
to the Internet bar and chat with their four or five cyberfellas.
and disgust may be high, but they have been for centuries and there
is another Chinese trait which seems to counter any news of corruption:
old men have seen Japanese invaders, Liberation, the Great Leap
Forward, the Cultural Revolution, the
June 3 Incident, and so on. Every so often some old fella will
find out that I write for a semi-living and he'll go off about the
poor people here and the growing gap, but as often as not he'll
say, "If only you could have seen the achievements of my country
over the last 50 years," with tears coming down his leathery face.
young generation doesn't have any reason to gripe if their hardships
are compared to those of their grandparents. So this Internet generation
may give the rebel in us high hopes, but the cynic in me dismisses
this generation's revolutionary potential.