Just off the long-haul Shanghai-Newark-DC National route and stumbling into our house. For another time, perhaps even tomorrow: why Newark has become my new favorite airport for trips into and out of China, apart from the Cory Booker factor and the welcome fact that it's not Dulles.
In this original item on the significance of China's "slow" internet, based on this NYT essay drawn from this book, I argued that the speed of internet access in China, relative to the super-quick networks in Japan, Singapore, and South Korea, was a useful proxy for China's openness and modernization overall. It has some modest direct effect on China's ability to nurture first-rate world research centers, and it is more important as a marker of the ongoing tensions between the security-state and the entrepreneurial forces in China's leadership.
Then in this reply, a number of Chinese and Western tech officials said that the subtler and more intriguing aspect was the difference between (very high) communication speeds inside the Chinese "Great Firewall" and (often very slow) speeds across the Firewall, to sites in the outside world. As one tech official in China wrote:
The big question is not whether or not China can build a world-class society while fighting the internet, the question is whether or not it can do so while building a giant intranet that is China-specific. China is big enough that I think this is something of an open question.
I am going to double-down and say: if, in the long run, internet users in China suffer penalties reaching sites outside the country, then no matter how big and important the Chinese web-o-sphere becomes, it will not be "world-leading" or "world-class," because much of the world will be walled off. To be clear, I hope for China's continuing more complete integration with the rest of the world. That would make some Chinese firms more profoundly "competitive" to Western incumbents -- Apple, Google, GE -- than they are now, but it would also suggest that the "Chinese system" as a whole, and most Chinese people, would more easily interact with the rest of the world.