A long while back I wrote a bit about my thoughts on the future of Google in China. I typed ‘China’ into a basic Google news search this morning to see what might pop up. I haven’t been keeping up with news on the Asian front for a few months, and only occasionally hear or read any particular story. With this in mind, I was happy to find that things are basically as I had left them, with a seemingly endless supply of stories focusing on the internet, the great fire wall and the battle over what is becoming the most important market in the digital realm.
βββββHow long will the internet remain the object of focus in the coverage of China’s rise in power? The internet, in many ways, represents a major aspect of the growth that China has experienced. With more than 400 million users, Chinese blogs, social networks and online chat groups have become one of the dominant forms of expression for a huge portion of the country, especially among young adults. Limiting access to some of these sites and options quickly brings about complaint from all of those who view free usage as a basic form of democracy. In many ways, the constant shifting in open internet usage represents the front line of the ongoing battle over free speech. The great fire wall changes, the netizens scream about it and the next day hundreds of international newspapers provide coverage.
βββββIt’s not just the Netizens that scream. Each change in restrictions plays a major role in the power held by search engines and providers. According to a recent New York Times article, it seems that Baidu (China’s main search engine) has experienced significant growth in users following the negativity that was generated between Google and China earlier this year. In the last few days, there have been a significant number of reports regarding the blockage of numerous blogs and services similar to twitter. Although I like the idea of full freedom of speech, I also respect a need to keep such a large population stable. Change is good, but change too quickly and a breakdown in social order can quickly follow. As always, this is a much larger thought condensed by a small timeframe, but it does make me think.