Free University Berlin, Institute for East Asian Studies, Germany
Project title: China's Internet as Signifier: Contradicting Discourses, Paradigms, and Interpretations
What are the underlying power-structures and existing societal paradigms which shape the differing perception of the role of the Internet in China in the "West" and in China?
My hypotheses and some preliminary conclusions could be described as follows:
Fundamental differences can be found between the discourses of Western analysts and the discourses of Chinese analysts regarding the social and political impact of the Internet in China. Recent research on the Internet in China carried out by the West has too often focused on questions of censorship, the blocking of websites, the democratizing effects of the Internet in China and on the use of the Internet by dissident groups. Western discourses have focused on democratization and political change, paying little attention to broader social changes. During the 1990s, a prevalent view in Western publications was that the introduction of the Internet would result in Western models of democracy and democratic participation taking root in Chinese society, but in recent years, the Chinese state/Communist Party has increasingly been viewed as successful in controlling the Internet. This discourse is, however, technology-deterministic and is only an "inverse" version of the former discourse.