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The Chinese Internet Century

by Adam Segal
January 27, 2010

My reaction to Secretary of State Clinton’s speech on Internet freedom, “The Chinese Internet Century,” is now up.  While Clinton’s call for an open, global Internet was both stirring and the right thing to do, we have to start planning for a world where China and others shape their own cyberspaces to meet economic, political, and strategic interests. Go read the whole thing at foreignpolicy.com.

Not surprisingly, the Chinese have pushed back, decrying the drive for “Internet hegemony” and rejecting the “imposition of value systems” and the “guidance of ‘American-style freedoms.’

All of this focus on the State Department and then on official Chinese response, however, overlooks an incredibly important point made by David Bandurski at the China Media Project.  The web in China is not a finished product, but a process that is being constantly re-made by Chinese users. Yes, the state imposes limits, and maybe new U.S. policies designed to help Chinese netizens get around the Great Firewall will have some impact, but “to the extent that China’s Internet does offer a new space for expression, it is Chinese citizens who are responsible for pushing open this new space (often at substantial risk to themselves, as the recent jailing of Web users has shown).”

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