For years, I've been following Beijing's attempts to regulate the Internet in China, and the risks that the instantaneous flow of information might bring to the rule of the Chinese Communist Party. My writing on this topic dropped off after I finished my graduate studies last year, but today I had a chance to write about it again for the Industry Standard.
The topic is Charter 08 (零八宪章), a bold attempt by a small group of Chinese intellectuals to reform China's political and legal systems. Despite the rickety information controls instituted by the PRC, the Internet has helped spread the charter to a much wider group of people. However, whether it will ever achieve appeal among the masses is another story:
Even with such porous roadblocks in place, the Internet has not made a huge impact on acceptance of Charter 08. More than 8,000 people have signed it, often after finding out about it through the 'Net, and many more undoubtedly sympathize with its tenets. The Washington Post cited the example of a cosmetology student who signed it as evidence that it is achieving a certain degree of mass support. But even if each of the 8,000 or so signatories had 100 other silent supporters who were too afraid to submit their own names, the total support would still be negligible -- less than 1% of the nearly 300 million Internet users in China.