China: January 19, 2004

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China now has 80 million Internet users, and this mass of connected Chinese are proving a more and more powerful political force. Spreading stories of corruption and government incompetence via the Internet increasingly forces the government to act. In the past, the government simply buried and ignored unpopular news, and most Chinese never knew. Even though the government strictly controls the TV and radio, and is cracking down more on print media, the message still gets out via the Internet. Often, frustrated journalists start the story flowing across the Internet. This can be seen from the professional style of the Internet messages that are passed around via email and chat rooms. The government has yet to come up with an effective method to control the Internet, and cannot afford, for economic reasons, to shut down access. Some senior Chinese officials see the Internet as an ally in their campaign against the extensive corruption that now infests the Chinese Communist Party. But the majority of Party officials see the Internet as a nuisance, and potential threat.

 

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