The Christian Science Monitor, February 28, 2002
WASHINGTON – When the global information revolution caught fire in China in 1998, President Bill Clinton was utterly giddy. The Internet, he proclaimed, would be a harbinger of Chinese democracy.
Today, democracy in China still is nowhere in sight. Official and self-censorship, however, lurks in every corner of the Chinese Web: government bureaucrats and dotcom employees dutifully monitor chat rooms, news stories, and e-mails for messages deemed “politically subversive” by the government.
Naturally, American policymakers have demanded to know why the Internet has not delivered all that was promised. But Washington has largely ignored the other benefits of the Internet in China. In fact, most Chinese weren’t even expecting freedom and democracy. Rather, they’ve grown to like it for a simpler reason: It’s fun.