A new report from the Pew Internet Project indicates that most internet users in China accept the idea that material on web sites should be monitored and controlled -- and that the government should do the controlling. For instance:
Most readers of the Western press are aware of efforts by the Chinese government to control what its people can read and discuss online. Outside observers and human-rights groups monitor and criticize the government's actions and publicize the techniques through which technologically savvy Chinese internet users can work around restrictions. Some analysts also track and interpret the government's subtler shifts in balance that seek to encourage internet development while still exercising control over it...
[O]ther evidence suggests that many Chinese citizens do not share Western views of the internet. The survey findings discussed here, drawn from a broad-based sample of urban Chinese internet users and non-users alike, indicate a degree of comfort and even approval of the notion that the government authorities should control and manage the content available on the internet.
The report goes on to say that 84 percent of Chinese internet users felt content should be controlled, and about the same number approved of the government's doing so. It also explores some of the reasons behind an attitude that confounds many American expectations about what the spread of the internet "should" mean. The discussion is based on a nationwide survey funded by the Markle Foundation and conducted by a respected Chinese social scientist named Guo Liang. It is very much worth reading, in connection with ongoing stories about mainstream Chinese views of news from Tibet and of criticism on that and other subjects from overseas.
I've been interested in these same issues and explored some of them in a recent article on how the China's Great Firewall works. I should probably mention at this point that the China office of the Pew Internet Project is a little desk in our bedroom, about ten feet away from the Atlantic's China bureau, and that the author of this report, Deborah Fallows, is my wife.
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