China on Tuesday released an official white paper on the country’s Internet industry. It reviews the history of China’s Internet, from its first connection in 1994, a single 64-kilobit line in Beijing’s Zhongguancun district, to the present day, when China boasts more Internet users than any other country. (See full text of the white paper in English here and in Chinese here)
At the end of 2009, the number of Chinese Internet users reached 384 million, or 28.9% of the population, a higher penetration rate than the world average, the paper notes. The paper states that China aims to raise the Internet penetration rate to 45% of the population within five years.
…The paper contains an entire section on “guaranteeing citizen’s freedom of speech on the Internet.” But it adds all the usual caveats that leave ample room for the government’s extensive censorship: “While exercising such freedom and rights, citizens are not allowed to infringe upon state, social and collective interests or the legitimate freedom and rights and other citizens.”
Ironically, the English-language version of the paper cites Twitter, the social networking service blocked by Beijing, as a positive development for China’s Internet and evidence of Internet freedom. “The newly-emerging online services, including blog, Twitter, video-sharing and social networking websites, are developing rapidly in China, and provide greater convenience for Chinese citizens to communicate online.”
The article does point out that the reference to Twitter may be a mistranslation as the Chinese version only refers to “micro-blogs” in general.