Take this with a grain of salt, but “BDA China, a Beijing-based consulting and research firm has announced that there are 220 million Web surfers in China, a number which surpasses the 217 million in the United States and makes the country the largest Internet-connected population in the world” (via Mashable).
For the past few months, China’s online population has indeed been edging closer to that of the United States, so it’s almost time. To be sure, we should start hearing word from official sources, such as the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC).
Still, that’s largely good news for Chinese netizens. As a potentially democratic platform, the Internet will hopefully allow the Chinese to realize a more transparent space for social and political discourse. While the Chinese government can still shut off parts of the Net, such as Youtube videos of the recent Tibetian Protest, there will always be other online avenues for the dissemination of citizen generated content.
That’s unless they decide to shut off their entire Internet, which was what the Burmese government did on 29th September 2007, following its violent crackdown on protesters there. Quite unlikely I think, since the Chinese citizens have been getting quite good at mobilizing themselves via cellphone SMS and voice calls.
Kennedy aptly calls what’s presently happening as Tiananmen 2.0.