Internet and Democracy

Last week, there were many criticisms about , , , and other technology companies’ submission to the Chinese government’s request to censor the information on the Internet. It has become a public concern that these companies are doing business there at the peril of human rights.

As a native Chinese, I completely understand these concerns and critics. However, I have to agree that the presence of American companies in China provides much greater benefit to the Chinese people. It will help democracy in the long run.

For a country that has three-thousand years of history in feudalism, democracy is a gradual and long term process. It won’t happen overnight. It’s a matter of changing people’s hearts and mindsets rather than changing the government and system.

Economic progress, technology advancement, and globalization are all part of this process. The State Department’s proposal to form a “Global Internet Freedom” task force to address censorship issues at the international level is one step closer toward that end.

I believe democracy in China as well as in other parts of the world is not only imminent, but also inevitable.

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22 thoughts on “Internet and Democracy

  1. Yes, and the undemocratic, totalitarian PRC government will come crashing down when the internet is really unleashed in China, correct?

  2. Thanks for sharing an enlightened opinion. I love hearing from people with inside views about things.

    It seems strange to me that we don’t have an equal outcry here about how our government is snooping in our internet use. Funny how we want freedom for everyone else, but are willing to give up our own.

  3. It disturbs me that American companies choose to profit at the expense of American values. We are far to willing to treat our rights as privledges that can be revoked.

    That said, I generally agree with your point. The internet is such a vast place I can’t imagine it is possible to screen out everything someone might find objectionable. It is kind of like when I open my windows in nice weather. Even though the screens are intact, a few bugs still get in.

  4. EFF Sues AT&T; to Stop Illegal Surveillance
    The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a class-action lawsuit against AT&T; Tuesday, accusing the telecom giant of violating the law and the privacy of its customers by collaborating with the National Security Agency (NSA) in its massive and illegal program to wiretap and data-mine Americans’ communications.

  5. I expect you are probably right Helen; however I think it is important that we don’t slide too easily into this acceptance of other people’s lower standard of human rights. If there were no protest, how long do think it would be before our government asked the companies to do something they should not and and the companies acquiesced quietly ‘for the good of the business’? Oh wait a minute! Nope forget it! Old news! Already done! Of course, maybe the Electronic Freedom folks will win their lawsuit. But public protest and legal action are the only things that will keep these companies from giving all our rights away in the pursuit of profit.

  6. Very well written article. I am alway curious about people with inside knowledge and their opinions, weather I agree on not

  7. I happen to agree with you , I just meant that I like to read all sides of an issue,particularly when well written like all your articles are.

  8. Helen, you expressed this point very well and sometimes the most effective sweeping changes have to start with small steps.

  9. Trying to change the government is like what Chinese proverb says: “changing the soup without changing the medicine.” It doesn’t address the core of the problem. The real changes start with people’s hearts and minds.

  10. Helen,
    Thank you for sharing your insights! I think much criticim stems from the fact that from a Western standpoint, it is so easy to take for granted many liberties and freedoms — we are comparing China with where the Western world is now, rather than where China is coming from. Therefore it’s difficult to watch other countries go through “growing pains” as they begin to push in new directions. But you are right to remind us all that democracy is a “gradual and long term process”. I think this is key to keep in mind even as we continue to push and put pressure toward freedom.

  11. Nice article, Helen! I share Sandy’s concern regarding the oh so easy way we have given up critical rights in the Patriot Act and the NSA probe. However, I also recognize that when there is another terrorist attack on our soil, people will look for scapegoats when the reality is that we are powerless to stop people willing to die for their cause. So, to a certain extent, this Administration–any Administration–is in a Catch-22; whatever it does and does not do, it will be wrong. Moreover, we claim to promot democracy throughout the world but criticize its outcome when we don’t like the results of the election, e.g., the recent election in Palestine.

  12. Helen, in your opinion, could the Chinese government survive a serious crackdown on budding captialism and democratic freedom? Are the Communist conservitives on the wane, forever? Is this tide of change irreversable?

  13. Sustainable democracy happens from within
    Submitted by José Arocha on Fri, 02/24/2006 – 1:43am.
    Dear Helen,

    I like your post. The following paragraph in particular grabbed my attention:

    “For a country that has three-thousand years of history in feudalism, democracy is a gradual and long term process. It won’t happen overnight. It’s a matter of changing people’s hearts and mindsets rather than changing the government and system.”

    After living the recent years of struggles for democracy in Venezuela, I have come to realize every sentence of this paragraph. Sustainable democracy as development is an inner condition of societies. It does not happen through paper declarations, it does not come with new governments, it does not happen overnight as you well say. It happens through the long and silent transformation of citizens internalizing the values of democracy and a culture of dialogue and respectful debate of ideas.

  14. Yes, Helen , you have some real perceptive observations, and I tend to agree that we must remember that China is not starting at the same point that we are in the practice of democracy. We are struggling with it yet and we have been working on it for 250 years. It’s a hard row, and the concerpt is still hard for us to get. “Educated involved citizenry” Just for us to be in contact and having dialogue is important.

  15. I am amazed at how much China has grown in economic activity (not just government-led) and prosperity in the past few years; I think it is on the way toward democracy and agree it will take a long time. In the meantime “a hundred flowers” are blooming and not, as in Mao’s time, being chopped off as soon as they appear.

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