Ankle-biting by a thousand blogs does not a revolution make


New York Times op-ed columnist Nicholas D. Kristof seems to be getting a little overexcited by the potential of the Internet to foment dissent and challenge the status quo.

Kristof's latest column discusses, "the Web site of a self-appointed journalist named Li Xinde" who "travels around China with an I.B.M. laptop and a digital camera, investigating cases of official wrongdoing ... [and] writes about them on his Web site". Kristof concludes:

But it's the Chinese leadership itself that is digging the Communist Party's grave, by giving the Chinese people broadband.
That's an outcome that Kristof would like very dearly. But there are a few things to consider before you believe that the Internet is somehow going to unseat the Party:

- People like Li Xinde are far and few between.

- Li Xinde's website is decorated with a banner featuring a picture of Hu Jintao and animated Party slogans like "Completely implement the Three Represents" (reproduced above). Li Xinde is himself a Party member.

- The government is becoming increasingly sophisticated at using different techniques to influence public opinion on the Internet. Aside from blocking websites and monitoring email, the government also employs propagandists to push the Party line on Internet forums and bulletin boards.

- Anyone with an Internet connection is already doing well economically: China is a country where the majority of the population comprises very poor peasants. People with Internet connections are the least likely of all Chinese people to rise up in rebellion against the government.

- is inaccessible in China. is however accessible. Something funny is going on, and it seems to involve the Nanny.

- This writer has lived in China for ten years. If I had a dollar for every time I've heard a Westerner talk about democracy and free expression in China, I would be a rich man. If I had a hundred dollars for every time I've heard a Chinese person talk about the same things, I might just be able to afford to buy a couple of fake Dolce & Gabbana shirts.

Mr Kristof's 'Death by a thousand blogs' is simply wishful thinking.

The banner at the top of this post is from

Thanks to Andrew S for the links.


New York Times: Kristof: Death by a thousand blogs
New York Times: Multi-media companion piece to Kristof's column

ESWN blog:Ownership Is Censorship In China (enforced self-censorship systems of online forums)
ESWN blog: Undercover Internet Commentators on the Chinese Internet (Party propaganda hacks)


1. A bit of poking around reveals that is heavily filtered by the Nanny — not only does a Google search fail, but trying to 'tracert' from gets blocked. The first result of a Google search for "yuluncn", is the .com site, with a crawl reported on the 22nd, so apparently it is the international portal.

2. According to BBS postings, on it seems that the ".com" site was blocked last August after the "kneeling photos" were published (but then according to this article on Sina, the block was lifted briefly, though he apparently still had a 1 million yuan price on his head).

3. Anti-corruption stuff being blocked seems like more of a local thing — Li Xinde gets a price on his head because he is destroying the comfortable lifestyle of the corrupt local officals, not because he's up running agains the Central Government. It's not ideological — Kristof's little chatroom games are pretty meaningless in the face of that.

— JM

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