Agreed, in part. However, as others have argued, technologically there is nothing preventing the government from, say, forcing the software into the IP stack, or requiring ISPs to incorporate it into the software suite they already install on customer PCs ("You need this to access the Internet" is all your friendly serviceman need say)***. Of course, as long as the software is restricted to IP banning, any anonymous proxy will still circumvent it. But can you say "feature creep"? Let Skype be a lesson to us all: Breaching Trust: An analysis of surveillance and security practices on China's TOM-Skype platform (http://www.nartv.org/mirror/breachingtrust.pdf).
I would caution, however, against vilifying China too much in this regard. Even much of the Chinese intelligentsia believes that their country needs a brutal government to avoid total chaos.
I was tempted to argue with your adjectives here, but then why? Ask the inmates at Gitmo or Abu Ghraib about the brutality of the US government, and then note the ease with which the Patriot Act passed, and the significant percentage of American intelligentsia that argued for its necessity in protecting American values. The American bogeyman is the "terrorist", hell-bent on destroying "freedom". Replace "terrorist" and "freedom" with "political dissident" and "social harmony" and the Chinese argument becomes indistinguishable. Certain levels of censorship and monitoring (pronounced "warrantless wiretapping") are viewed as necessary and essential tools in the struggle to protect social harmony from the onslaught of its political enemies, and most Chinese are more than happy to allow it.
Lee Kaiwen, Shanghai.
***Actually, I'm surprised it wasn't done this way. Since the the software only needs to be present on PCs that actually access the Internet, what more efficient point of attack than ISPs? Mandating the software for Internet service would go along way toward ensuring its ubiquity. 'Course, I don't wanna be giving the government any ideas
It's its current iteration, at least.
The grandparent post is correct. The Great Firewall, dubbed the most sophisticated of its kind in the world, is easily circumvented by anyone who knows how to spell "anonymous proxy" or, barring that, "Tor". IP-banning software, even if it's mandated in the future, will be no different. The operative word here is won't, not can't, and the point is the vast majority of Chinese netizens won't bother circumventing it, even if they know they can.
Of course, I run Linux (Ubuntu, thanks for asking), so all this is moot to me.
Lee Kaiwen, Shanghai
Interesting. This has been precisely the argument coming from Western China experts for the past quarter century -- the view that as China develops economically, the people (i.e., the "privileged class") benefiting the most would begin to demand equal amounts of political power. Now you argue it'll lead to a population of sheep. Which is, not incidentally, what most Americans seem to believe the Chinese people are now.
"the hundreds of millions of rural poor
Quite the cultural expert, aren't we? The "hundreds of millions of rural poor" have about as much to do with Beijing as they have with any Chinese government. Not because Beijing is autocratic (save for a brief period of republican rule, China has never known anything else) but simply because in any average year in rural China it hardly makes a difference what's happening in Beijing.
Or does it? The fact is China has experienced near miraculous economic growth over the past thirty years. As to the "rural poor", according to the latest World Bank numbers China's poverty rate plummeted from 69% in 1978, to 10% in 2004 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poverty_in_China) -- significantly lower than the US's usual 12 to 17% (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poverty_in_the_United_States). In fact no other country in the world has equaled China's record on poverty reduction in the last quarter century.
If I were amongst the "hundreds of millions of" Chinese "rural poor", I think I'd have good reason to be happy with Beijing.
Lee Kaiwen, Shanghai
And how do you guarantee that? Having lived in numerous countries around the world, I'd argue that, if stability is your meter-stick, authoritarian regimes win hands down. By far the most unstable countries I've lived in -- democracies all -- were in central Africa; in Zaire, for example, the people lived in abject terror of the military. I'm personally of the opinion that stable democracies are in the minority, and that the US owes its stability far more to the balance of powers than to democracy per se. Absent that, democracies are easy prey to anyone who manages to amass enough power. Hardly a month goes by you don't hear yet another story of fraudulent elections, e.g.
Currently, I live in Shanghai, where I find life on a daily basis nearly indistinguishable from the States: I get up, go to work, collect my paycheck; I have all the usual amenities at my fingertips -- movies, good restaurants, excellent parks and recreational facilities, etc. And at that level, issues such as democracy and censorship tend to fade into the bleary realm of principle. With most Chinese feeling the government performs well, and with a general level of satisfaction in their daily lives, what practical difference does it make that they don't elect their national leaders, or that I can't get to Youtube?
Vis-a-vis the government, the only significant attitudinal difference I've noticed is that the Chinese feel a bit more detached from theirs. As much as Americans like to diss their own government, it's generally one of the first places they turn to for help -- the US has government hotlines for everything -- and they expect to get it. Chinese tend to be a bit more pessimistic about such things. But then, so were Zairians.
Lee Kaiwen, Shanghai, China
Lee Kaiwen, Shanghai
It is clearly a message of solidarity.
An article in the Wall Street Journal (http://blogs.wsj.com/chinajournal/2009/06/02/twitter-goes-down-in-china/) says, "A Twitter spokeswoman didn't have an immediate comment and couldn't confirm whether the service was blocked in China." while Australian news media (http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,25581519-5001028,00.html) report, "A Microsoft official said Tuesday its Bing.com, Live.com and Hotmail.com sites were among several to have been blocked for customers in China."
Doesn't sound like the block is self-imposed. But would that make sense in any case? Self-imposed censorship in the name of free speech?
As someone who lives in China
As someone who also lives in China, my attempts to load Twitter bear the usual Great Firewall earmarks: "The connection was reset" errors with easy circumvention via anonymous proxy. Note that as of this writing (June 5, 9 PM local time), MSN, LiveMail and HotMail are accessible in Shanghai; Twitter and YouTube are not.
Lee Kaiwen, Shanghai, Chine
Lee Kaiwen, Shanghai, China
Right to peaceful protest: There are hundreds of peaceful protests a year throughout China, ranging in size from single individuals up to groups of hundreds. While I'm no legal expert, it seems to me the relevant differences between Chinese and, say, US laws governing peaceful assembly are that the Chinese government can be a bit more nebulous in denying permits, and that protests espousing illegal activities or undermining social harmony are not tolerated. Now, one might (and probably could) argue that the government has abused loopholes in the laws. But the right to peaceful protest is enshrined in the Chinese constitution.
Right to choice of religion: Again, the right is constitutionally guaranteed. I am a practicing Catholic who attends Mass weekly here in Shanghai. If I wanted to, I could become Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, or one of hundreds of persuasions of Protestant, all without government interference. I'm even free to proselytize.
Yes China has laws governing the limits and nature of permissible religious activities. So does the US. Jehovah's Witnesses, for example, have found themselves in US court over refusal on religious grounds of medical treatment for their children. American religious and charitable groups are required to register with the government (currently only for tax purposes) and their right to freedom speech is curtailed: ask an American pastor or priest to endorse a particular political candidate (or even party) next election cycle, and watch how fast the government comes down on his church. How is this substantively different from China? While you or I may not like where China draws its lines, the fact remains every country draws lines.
Right to have children: Without intending to start a protracted debate over China's one-child policy, it is not illegal in China for couples to have multiple children; the national average is currently two, statistically identical to the US. It is true that the government attempts to dissuade multiple children through a(n often heavy-handed) system of positive and negative incentives, such as fines, denials of government assistance, and lump-sum retirement payments to compliant couples. It is also true that the policy has always been ripe for abuse by corrupt (an endemic problem in China) or overzealous local officials, most notoriously through incidences of forced abortion and sterilization (both of which are illegal; http://www.mahalo.com/china-forced-abortions) in rural areas. But that hardly equates to accusations of systematic government policy, and your assertion that Chinese couples have no right to have children is plain silly. In any case, the government is slated to scrap the one-child policy completely in the near future http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/china/article3451974.ece.
Right to choice of political persuasion: depends on what you mean. Yeah, there's only one legal political party in China (and yet, CP membership, which is in decline, barely keeps pace with the US Democratic party). And yes publicly advocating contrary to the "party line" can get you in a boatload of trouble. However, I am free to personally believe any politics I wish, as long as I don't make myself a public nuisance in the process. You may not like that, and you may consider that a violation of free speech (personally, I don't and I do). I just wanted to clarify that the Chinese government doesn't give a rat's petutti what my political opinions are as long as I don't go around disturbing social harmony.
OK, flame away. But flame me for what I'm saying, not what I'm not: don't accuse me of being some pro-China apologist who thinks China has no human rights problems (even Beijing admits it does; see its 2009-2010 "National Human Rights Action Plan"). What I am arguing is that most human rights issues (there are glaring exceptions, such as Beijing's official Tibetan policy) in China are traceable not to a lack of legal protection, but a failure of enforcement, and the main culprits are systemic corruption and Beijing's obsession with face. The pandemic of local political corruption, an open secret even amongst Chinese, severely hampers the central government's attempts at reform, and its paranoia over losing face leads to an almost schizophrenic approach to nearly every problem: does the government address it openly, or sweep it under the proverbial rug? I see this almost daily even in the local press: official news reports delicately trumpeting some new anti-corruption policy or a successful crackdown all without actually admitting there is a corruption problem at all. See this: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1615936,00.html for what I think is a pretty fair assessment of the problem. Lee Kaiwen, Shanghai, China
Tomorrow's computers some time next month. -- DEC