The Internet promises to reshape political life in China, including
giving people more opportunities to criticize their government,
according to the results of a survey conducted by a Chinese researcher.
Public political discourse is tightly controlled in China. Bulletin
boards are routinely censored of undesirable posts and access is
blocked to overseas Web sites that officials deem politically
unacceptable. In several cases, Internet users have been jailed for
disseminating politically sensitive information over the Internet.
Nevertheless, Chinese Internet users see more opportunities to
criticize their government because of the Internet , according to a
survey of 2,376 respondents in five cities that was led by Guo Liang, a
researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
The survey found that 54 percent of respondents felt that using the
Internet gives people more opportunities to criticize the government.
By comparison, 61 percent of respondents in China felt the same way in
While the 2005 figure is slightly lower than the result in 2003, the
overall response remained positive. In 2003, China was the only country
surveyed where users responded positively to the question of whether
the Internet created more opportunities for users to criticize their
governments, said a report that outlined the survey’s results.
The other countries surveyed in 2003 were Chile, Hungary, Italy,
Sweden, South Korea, Singapore, Japan, and the U.S. Comparison figures
for 2005 were not available.
In addition to finding more opportunities to criticize their
government, Chinese Internet users see the Internet reshaping politics
in several other ways. The survey found that 55 percent of respondents
felt the Internet can help government better serve the people and 60
percent said it will help officials to better understand the views of
common people. The survey also showed that 45 percent of respondents
believe people can have more political power by using the Internet.
Based on these results, the report said the political impact of the
Internet is just beginning to be felt. “We can predict that as Internet
use becomes more popular in China, its impact on politics will become
stronger,” it said.
China’s Internet population numbers 105 million, according to September
figures published by the Ministry of Information Industry. That figure
makes China home to the second-largest population of Internet users,
after the U.S., but it represents less than 10 percent of the country’s
1.3 billion population.
By Sumner Lemon – IDG News Service (Taipei Bureau)