The internet and “public opinion” in China

No time to comment, but Jim Fallows posted a worthwhile (and timely) post on the internet and public opinion in China.

Outsiders who follow Chinese events have known for years about Roland Soong’s EastSouthWestNorth site*, which draws from Chinese-language and English-language sources for reports and analysis.

I’ve just seen this post, from a few days ago, which strikes me as something that people who don’t normally follow Chinese events should know about. It’s the text of a speech Soong prepared for last weekend’s annual Chinese Bloggers conference (but did not deliver, for family-emergency reasons). In it, he discusses the differences the Internet has, and has not, made in the Chinese government’s ability to control information and maintain power within China.

This is a subject easily misunderstood in the United States, where people tend to assume either that the cleansing power of the Internet will ultimately make government efforts at info-control pointless, or, on the contrary, that the bottling-up effectiveness of the Great Firewall will protect the government from the power of an informed citizenry.  (My own Atlantic article on the subject here.)
Soong elegantly illustrates why such categorical assumptions miss the complexity of what’s going on. The whole speech is worth reading . . .

Read the rest of Jim’s post here.