Center to Periphery (Part II): territorial sovereignty in Chinese cyberspace

This post is Part Two of a two-part piece, the first of which was posted on 02 December on the DiploFoundation’s Internet Governance channel.

In late November, Reuters reported Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google Inc, as forecasting that the rise of social media in China will lead to liberalization. “You won’t be able to stop it”, he stated, “even if you don’t like it.” In another November report, Reuters quoted Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, as saying that Beijing will ultimately free up China’s internet for economic reasons. “The Berlin Wall tumbled down, the great firewall of China – I don’t think it will tumble down, I think it will be released.”

In the early 1980s, it was Deng Xiaoping’s policies of ‘reform and opening up’ that had prompted foreign commentators to predict that China’s days as an authoritarian state were numbered. Liberal thinkers jumped quickly to the conclusion that China’s experimentation with capitalism in designated zones on its coastal peripheries would lead inevitably to democratization.

That was 30 years ago. Since then, radical economic liberalization has been wrought across China, resulting in historically unprecedented economic and social transformation. But despite the predictions, these winds of change have carried with them not the slightest hint of political liberalization.

It would appear that Schmidt and Berners-Lee see the internet as the missing ingredient. Available evidence would suggest otherwise.

In part one of this post, I used a center-periphery approach to provide an overview of how Beijing controls and utilizes China’s geopolitical space. In this part, I consider how Beijing’s management of geopolitical space is paralleled in the virtual world and in how Beijing controls its cyber borders. Read more…

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[Shanghai – host of a new pilot free trade zone]

 

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