Monday, October 11, 2010

Who's afraid of China?

The last week announcement of the Chinese winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Liu Xiabo, might have the potential of opening a new discussion regarding the need for a change in the area of human rights in China.

On the other side, given the high economic potential between China and its Western partners, and the permanent ties with the government of Beijing, despite the problematic situation of meeting the democratic standards, it is highly improbable that a radical change will occur in the next period of time. It is not the first time when the "business as usual" type of mentality prevails. Among other things going on after the nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize went public, Liu Xiabo's wife is said to be missing, or at least in home isolation and the Chinese authorities warned Norway about an inevitable deterioration of the bilateral relations.

The systemic problems of China are not new or special. It is almost the same kind of issues countries from Central and Eastern Europe faced and, in some cases, are still facing. It is about the consequences of the high level of centralization of the decision making processes, the personalization of politics and the widespread corruption. On the other side, the demography and geography of China, plus the specific history of the political system - very different of what we are used with in Europe - are making the Chinese case a very special and different one.

Does the social media have a potential of change? As in any other cases, the answer is "not only". When thinking about China we have to think about the tight control of the state over the Internet. A fact impossible without the tacit acceptance from the point of view of big Internet companies, even, at least in the case of Google, the situation went, probably, beyond the accepted professional limits. Hence, the various harassment, the most recent being the news that Google warned about a possible hacking attempt originating from China. In the mainland China - but not in Hong Kong, Twitter is blocked, and Facebook and Google from time to time. As a compensation, Chinese authorities created their own micro-blogging platform Sina Weibo. In these conditions, what potential for change and how these changes might look like?

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