save china, save the world

How the Internet can change the world ? That is a really huge question; I will focus here on the role that, as the born of a free press did during the nineteenth century, the Internet can offer a window of freedom to oppressed populations. Notably nowadays about countries like Iran and mostly China.

As we saw with the Olympics Games, China has definitely become the equal of western countries in terms of power. With its population of 1.6 billions (more than a human among six) and the sky-scraping development that it knows (9% of growth each year), this country will obviously play a gigantic role in the future decades. But there is still remaining the question of the regime. We mustn’t forget that China, even if it’s more opened than 30 years ago, still remain a communist dictatorship tinted of strong nationalism. Some words like democracy, free-speech, or free-press are only whispered in the several countries of China.

During the past, it was easier to settle a dictatorship and to keep it. The Prince written by Nicolas Machiavel learnt to future kings and absolute monarchs how to deal with opponents. the motto was, “be both lion (for the strength) and fox (for the intelligence)”. Now with the development of the press first, then the NTIC it is quite impossible to control the abundance of information even when you own an impressive bureaucracy and censure as China. But it’s not simple as it seems.

Let’s look what The Economist, the famous british newsmag, said about that question in an article of April 2006 :

” Six years ago Bill Clinton described China’s efforts to restrict the internet as “sort of like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall”. But as China’s web-filtering technology has grown more sophisticated, and the ranks of its internet police have swelled, some have begun to wonder. A report in 2003 by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace suggested that, despite the difficulties the internet posed to authoritarian regimes, it could also be used to fortify them. China, the authors concluded, had been “largely successful at guiding use” of the internet. At a congressional hearing in February on American companies involved in internet business in China, a Republican congressman, Christopher Smith, said the internet there had become “a malicious tool, a cyber sledgehammer of repression”.

Some of the companies testifying at the hearing—Cisco, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo!—deserved a grilling. Why, for instance, had Microsoft, at the request of Chinese officials, removed a popular site in December from its Chinese version of MSN Spaces, a service for personal diaries and blogs? Yahoo! too had questions to answer about reports that information it provided to the police about its e-mail services had helped put dissidents behind bars. More recently Reporters Without Borders, a human-rights group, said that a Hong Kong unit of Yahoo! had given the police a Chinese user’s draft e-mails. These were then used as evidence at his trial for subversion, for which he received a four-year jail sentence. Yahoo! has condemned efforts to suppress freedom of speech, but says it must obey Chinese law.”

The authorities strike back, but the resistance is growing every day. Chinese people discover a little more each day the whole freedom that the Internet can give them. The lock will break one day, and China will maybe embrace democracy, stop their hawkish diplomacy, and built a better world in concert with the others… We can’t forget that thousands of missiles are still facing Taiwan for instance.

To my mind, Internet and democracy are strongly linked, when these population discovered the first one, they couldn’t ignore the second for a long time.

I hope.

Antoine.

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