Much of the concern about China and the internet on this side of the Pacific has focused on censorship. But Melinda Liu of Newsweek highlights more complex dimensions. It has value as a positive tool for regime propaganda. hey worry less about the Web as an
information source than as a tool for mobilizing mass
The larger story is the degree to which China's e—police now proactively influence Web content in ways beneficial to the regime—and pre—empt people from organizing politically. The aim is not simply to stifle dissent or to control the free flow of information, but increasingly to shape public opinion in cyberspace. In fact, Chinese propagandists worry less about the Web as an information source than as a tool for mobilizing mass movements. "Most foreign analysts get it wrong," says Anne Stevenson—Yang, a Beijing—based Internet entrepreneur. "Political concern about the Internet is totally about social organization, not about information. It's how you act on the information you have." ....
Most tellingly, the rules forbid Web content in two new categories. One bans "inciting illegal assemblies, associations, marches, demonstrations or gatherings that disturb social order." The other forbids conducting activities in the name of an "illegal civil organization."
That emphasis suggests authorities aim to avoid any repeat of last spring's unrest.
China rightly fears mass unrest spilling into the streets. With 30 or 40 thousand web cops on duty already, China is making certain that nobody can use the web to gather a crowd. Of course, in the long run, that will only spawn underground resistance, the kind that is harder to anticipate.
Thomas Lifson 10 09 05