Thursday, 30 March 2006, V2_ in Rotterdam hosted an evening on internet use in China.
The Great Leap has become a popular metaphor to describe China’s turbulent and fast-paced economic modernization process. Many Chinese citizens have seen their private freedoms increase significantly but official policies of ‘opening up’ have neither changed the political system nor the state control of public media. TANGENT_LEAP brings together a group of experts and activists using bottom-up media such as the web, e-mail, blogs and sms as forms of self-organization to create an emergent middle landscape, somewhere between the official media rhetoric, and the private sphere.
Speakers were Karsten Giese, Zhang Ga, Isaac Mao, Martijn de Waal, and Guobin Yang. The latter spoke to the audience via Skype, apparently a very popular way of communicating in China too. He spoke about ‘play’ on the Chinese internet and gave many examples of ludic expressions on the internet. His thesis is that politics is mingled with play in the Chinese internet, saying that “all politics and no play makes the internet a dull place”.
Guobin also published an article on this topic in a newsletter special by IIAS (International Institute for Asian Studies) on the Chinese internet (#33, dated March 2003).
It was a pretty interesting evening. Nice to hear some informed stories about the current state of the Chinese internet, instead of the regular doom stories about government blocking and censorship. Most participants were confident that the internet will develop as an area for free speech anyway, in spite of efforts by the government to hamper this.