Blogging with Chinese characteristics
It did not quite tickle Amit Varma enough, but the Indian government did deliver a small surprise recently when it announced that it is seriously considering providing official accreditation to bloggers and other ‘internet journalists’. Not that this will be any easier than getting a driving license, but it does present an opportunity for interested bloggers to lurk around the corridors of power and ask uncomfortable questions at official government media conferences. With some luck, Indian diplomatic missions around the world too will extend accreditation to bloggers living abroad.
In sharp contrast, China’s reaction to ‘internet journalism’ has been along predictable lines. Blogspot and Blogger are locked out behind the Great Firewall of China. And as CDT reports, the Chinese government ‘has formed a special force of undercover online commentators to try and sway public opinion’.
The best use real Indian bloggers can make of the opportunity is not so much to sway public opinion — which does not require a government license — but to ask those questions that the mainstream media is failing to ask. As for China, it has just become more difficult for real Chinese bloggers to sound convincing when they actually support their government.
14 thoughts on “The blogosphere and the difference between India and China”
I am skeptical if this move from the government is a means to give a shot in the arm for “internet publishers” or just another attempt to control a new media that has sprung up and is either getting too visible or too vocal for comfort.
They opened access to Typepad recently but several other including rediff’s blog service remains blocked. Tech savvy people used to get around the block by buying hosting and running wordpress etc. But recently authorities are forcing such people to register at a govt, site. If they don’t their ISPs will asked to take down their sites.
Most of my Chinese friends feel the censorship situation has gotton worst under Hu Jintao. There was even a recent NY Times story on it.
Inspite of this, money is going into the internet/media sector. Soon the Chinese internet will be like Chinese TV or Newspaper- bunch of brainless game shows and sleazefest.
The key point here is that India, for all its desperate need for economic development, has already made the hardest part of the transition to being an advanced country — a process that China has not started and still resists. The attitude toward blogs is just one example of robust free speech versus the kind of paranoid, oppressive thuggery that shows that the “communist” label still fits China. Acquiring access to foreign capital and technology and combining that with cheap labor can yield high growth for a while. But to move beyond that you need a political framework that can handle massive change. India is a democratic and largely free and open society with relatively honest courts, etc. It has the institutional framework in place to move very quickly. No one should be surprised over the next ten years as India grows fast and its political and legal and economic framework become even stronger — while China faces one crisis after another. Authoritarian capitalism is ultimately a contradiction in terms. India has the foundations of true democratic capitalism in place. China does not. Advantage India.
I went to China recently, and I could access my blogger.com account, and could even post to my blog, but I could not actually visit the blog. It was strange, but at least I could leave messages for my friends back home.
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