Internet access is spreading rapidly in China as elsewhere. For many, especially Western observers, this is a paradox: China wants to open its doors to the world, yet open access to a free flow of information is seen as contradictory to, and undermining of, the values and practice of the Party and state. The lack of a developed civil society is used to explain why China is less concerned about the spread of the Internet than many would predict, but we also argue that policy-making processes in China are more complex than a simple axis of closed-open, or propaganda-information. We propose a two-tier bargaining framework (domestic and international) to explain the character of China’s national policies towards the information infrastructure and the Internet, and why many outsiders fail to understand them.
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Photo by Ricardo Rocha