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Science, Maths & Technology
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  • 5 mins
  • Level 1: Introductory

China and the internet

Updated Thursday 22nd February 2018

John Perry Barlow's experiences suggest some in China are wary of the rapid change promised by the internet - but that doesn't mean it's a nation closed to innovation.

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Oh I think it looks a lot more fierce from here than it does from there is all I can tell you. I mean I spent some time in China, I don’t have a hard time getting anything I want over the internet, neither do they.

I mean China, China has a very difficult problem, which is trying to deal with a transition from a practically feudal period into a post-industrial period overnight, with lots of traditions and cultural beliefs that don’t like being threatened, and they also have a cultural tradition of having period firestorms of belief that gen themselves up, you know, it’s hard to find anybody over a certain age in China that doesn’t have as the central scar of his life the Great Cultural Revolution.

They don’t want anything like that to happen again, and they know that the internet can breed that sort of sudden spiralling belief system, so they put steps in to make it harder for that to happen but it’s not, I don’t think it’s terribly effective. I mean, you know, if you want to find something out about anything in China you can. You have to work a little harder at it. I mean, frankly, China feels like a freer country than the United States to me.

Why?

Well, because I just - unless you do something to specifically piss off the government you can do pretty much as you please. And, you know, you have to really be angling at it, you have to be wanting to piss off the government, and in a fierce way.

 

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