The Internet in China: The pen, the sword and the networked computer

The Internet could be an important weapon for undermining regimes which lack a democratic mandate. With eight million online and counting, China’s rapid Internet development should be a major threat to the political order. However, with the right rules in place – and more just issued – the government has little to fear. At least, for the moment.

The World Today Published 1 March 2000 Updated 27 October 2020 4 minute READ

Dr Stephen Green

If the pen is mightier than the sword, then how powerful is a home PC equipped with a 400 MHZ processor, some browser software and a modem? Policy-makers in the People’s Republic of China believe the answer is very, but that is not stopping them actively fostering Internet development.

Sometime after 2005, Chinese will overtake Americans as the Internet’s most numerous national community. The numbers piling online in China are breath-taking; ten million by the end of 2000, probably rising to eighty-five million by 2005. Chinese Internet entrepreneurs – complete with American MBAs and venture-capital indigestion – are the new heroes of both the government and students.

Under the ground, China already has a quality infrastructure – despite frequent complaints from surfers about slow connection speeds – and more is coming. A venture led by the State Administration of Radio, TV and Film aims to wire up China’s eighty million cable-TV users for Internet access.

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