Blogger Jon Jay Ray claims that
The Chinese have blocked domestic access to the popular blogging site
This should come as no surprise to China watches. No government likes being
criticized, but democratic governments are more likely to lose power if they repress criticism,
are more likely to retain power by doing so.
However it is mistake to assume that the Chinese leadership has directly
ordered this, or even that the leadership knows what is going on.
Dictatorships, like democracies, have ill-defined power-blocks, and complex
power structures. Middle Level Agents (MLAs) are people who aren't part of the
central power block, but enjoy some power and privilege, which they would
likely lose it in a change to democracy.
These MLAs often take it upon themselves to enforce censorship, largely in
anticipation of orders coming from above. Orders from above are scary in any bureaucracy, but even more
so in a dictatorship because they may contain orders like replacement, or
The Internet, however,
was designed to be decentralized, and survive all kinds of attacks, and partial
unavailability. If part of it is taken out, the information routes around it -
in effect it is 'self healing'. As the enthusiasts say: 'the Internet
interprets censorship as damage and routes around it'. The Chinese
government can slow the dissemination of information, but ultimately the
realities of the laws of information flow will make it available.
The Chinese government still don't understand the relationship between freedom of expression and
creation of wealth, and they
will continue this hypocrisy for some time yet.
In the meantime, people will just have to be more innovative. The glory of
the Internet protocols is that most of them can encapsulate the others. Anyone
want to set up an auto mailer, which mails the HTTP for given pages
periodically to residents of the People's Democratic Utopian Paradise Republic
of China? Or How about an an HTTP proxy embedded in an SMTP server with
The genie is out of the bottle. Ultimately information will be free
... it's just a matter of time before someone with a lot of free time does
UPDATE 2003-01-17: JonJayRay
says the siege has now been lifted.
It is not uncommon for the Chinese to do these things and reverse them a
few days later. They did this for google.com a few months back.
What is going on is that the Chinese are testing their ability to clamp down on
sites if necessary. If there is another US spy-plane incident, or Belgrade
embassy bombing something or similar, they can control the population, and
prevent a possible revolution.
spy-plane incident, Chinese authorities closed down the cyber-cafes to
avoid a repeat of the out-of-control demonstrations which occurred after the
US bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade during the Bosnian conflict. Sudden mass protests could produce calls for a change of government.
China is a political tinder box.