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After the Internet, Before Democracy

Competing Norms in Chinese Media and Society

Johan Lagerkvist

China has lived with the Internet for nearly two decades. Will increased Internet use, with new possibilities to share information and discuss news and politics, lead to democracy, or will it to the contrary sustain a nationalist supported authoritarianism that may eventually contest the global information order?
This book takes stock of the ongoing tug of war between state power and civil society on and off the Internet, a phenomenon that is fast becoming the centerpiece in the Chinese Communist Party’s struggle to stay in power indefinitely. It interrogates the dynamics of this enduring contestation, before democracy, by following how Chinese society travels from getting access to the Internet to our time having the world’s largest Internet population. Pursuing the rationale of Internet regulation, the rise of the Chinese blogosphere and citizen journalism, Internet irony, online propaganda, the relation between state and popular nationalism, and finally the role of social media to bring about China’s democratization, this book offers a fresh and provocative perspective on the arguable role of media technologies in the process of democratization, by applying social norm theory to illuminate the competition between the Party-state norm and the youth/subaltern norm in Chinese media and society.

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7. The Google mirage: global business norms versus Internet sovereignty 227

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227 7. The Google mirage: global business norms versus Internet sovereignty We want as many people in the world as possible to have access to our services, including users in mainland China, yet the Chinese government has been crystal clear through- out our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement.1 On January 12, 2010, Google’s chief legal officer, David Drummond, announced on the company’s official corporate blog “a new approach” to China, which meant that Google was considering exiting the world’s fastest-growing market for Information and communications technology. The immediate concern was a hacker attack against Google’s software and individual Chinese Gmail accounts hosted by Google,2 although the company stated it was unhappiness with censor- ship that led to the decision. Even if Google knew that censorship could not be negotiated, it took more than two months, until March 22, for the company to announce that its Google.cn search engine would cease operating. This decision meant that Mainland users were redirected to its uncensored Google.hk website located in Hong Kong, yet blocked from Mainland users by the Chinese government’s fire- wall. The potential closing of parts of its business operations inside China due to, as Google several times reiterated, unhappiness with China’s censorship policies, was unprecedented, although not uncha- 1 “A new approach to China: an update,” http://googleblog.blogspot.com/ 2010/03/new-approach-to-china-update.html, last accessed August 15, 2010. 2 For details on the hacker attack, see Kim Zetter, “Google hack attack was ultra sophisticated, new details show,” January 14, 2010, http:...

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