The modernisation of China continues apace, as measured by the number of citizens with access to the Internet, which has transformed western lifestyles and economies.
China now has over half a billion people using the Internet, more than twice the number using it in the US, and more than the entire population of the EU. Growth in the number of Internet users ‘slowed’ to six percent this year.
Following the use of the Internet in organising citizen activity such as the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, and the London riots, there is concern about the effect of this technology on social stability.
Microblogs have already had an impact in China: forcing the authorities to adjust their response to the high speed rail crash in July; organising a demonstration against a toxic petrochemical plant; forcing the proper trial of the son of an army general following a traffic dispute.
Sina Weibo, China’s most popular microblogging site, understands that microblogs pose a “very serious challenge” to government’s ability to filter information and control society. The company is proactively looking at ways to ensure that the site is not used to spread malicious rumours or other malicious purposes.
One of China’s most respected journalists has regularly had his posts erased, delayed, and hidden from other users.