China and the internet is one of those topics which gets swung around and made to represent whatever position the writer wants to push. The Columbia Political Review’s essay Repression.com manages to present an impartial overview of the internet in China devoid of hysteria or oversimplification.
The Internet has had a Jekyll and Hyde effect in China. Internet users can undoubtedly become more informed if they seek to do so, and occasionally public opinion mobilized and expressed via the Internet has influenced the Chinese government to change policies. But at the same time, the web serves as an opiate for the masses who have no interest in politics the vast majority of Chinese internet users go online to read gossip, talk to friends, and play games. The case is the same for the government. It seeks to create increasingly powerful software technology to censor the Internet, but at the same time, as freelance writer Paul Mooney reported in YaleGlobal Online, members of the National People’s Congress routinely use the Internet to gauge public opinion and to look for new ideas.
I’ve spent a few too many all-nighters playing Counter-Strike in auditorium-sized internet bars in Beijing, but I’ve also seen how artists in China have jumped on the internet. Unlike Australia, which also has a high rate of early adoption of new technology, it seems that every second artist/musician/dancer in China has a website or blog or forum, and are also very literate in using the technology in art, making for an amazing yet fragile internet culture.
[I saw this first at China Digital News]