grant virtual asylum - adopt a chinese blog 06.22.2005, 12:57 PM
posted by ben vershbow
People sometimes wonder what would have happened if the Soviet Union had survived long enough to experience the internet. It's a delicious "what if" scenario to contemplate. The USSR was quite skilled at using broadcast and print media to achieve total message discipline (the Bush administration can only dream), but what would have happened if a totally decentralized medium like the web (a control freak's nightmare) sprung up right under the Kremlin's boots? Would the dissidents have bubbled over into cyberspace in a surging tide too powerful to control? Or would the the government have cracked down brutally, or cut off the emerging technology before it could develop, drawing the iron curtain still further over the information commons? Someone should write a novel (á la Thomas Harris, Philip Roth)..
But look to China today, and we can get at least some idea of what might have happened. Granted, China is now a booming frontier of global capitalism, having all but abandoned the communist economic model. But the regime is still quite Soviet in its attitudes toward the media (which it totally controls) and toward expressions of political dissent (which it forbids and punishes). The internet presents a particularly devilish challenge.
In response, the government has set up a "Great Firewall" blocking off certain sections of the web (anything from Google News to Human Rights Watch) that it would rather its citizens didn't see. Not wanting to get shut out of the world's biggest emerging market, American corporations like Yahoo, Google, and most recently Microsoft, have complied with state demands that certain services, and even certain terms like "democracy," "freedom" or "human rights," are blocked in Chinese versions of their web applications. In addition, the government recently passed legislation requiring all websites to be registered. Anything deemed inappropriate gets taken off its server. A hundred flowers may bloom on the internet, but not if the government cuts them off at the root.
It's estimated there are about 1 million Chinese blogs, and that number is sure to increase ten, twenty a hundred fold. Who knows? If it gets to that point, the government probably won't be able to keep up. But for now, bloggers with even slightly controversial politics are in danger of getting shut down. This is why some Chinese bloggers are moving their sites abroad, seeking political haven on western servers. Isaac Mao, a venture capitalist in Shanghai for internet startups, self-professed "meta idea" generator, and one of the first Chinese bloggers, has set up an "adopt-a-blog" program that matches up fellow bloggers with foreigners willing to make a little extra room on their servers. It's a great idea, and a chance for the blogosphere to come together as a global community.
More about Isaac Mao in Wired: "Chinese Blogger Slams Microsoft"
Someone found a way to circumvent Microsoft's block on "freedom," "democracy" etc.: "Loophole lets 'Freedom' ring in Chinese MSN blogs" (with complete instructions here)
JoLeKo on June 23, 2005 1:59 PM:
I love the fact that every day people can write about what they think and search what others are thinking. I think the people of China have the right to do the same. I am hereby willing to adopt a Chinese Blog. If anyone is interested, email me or stop by. Let freedom ring!