The Chinese Communist Party may finally have met its matchthe Internet. The Internet is beginning to play the watchdog role in China that the press plays in the West. It is also eroding the leadership's monopoly on information, and is complicating the traditional policy of "nei jin wai song"cracking down at home while pretending to foreigners to be wide open. Some 100 million Chinese now surf the Web; e-mail and Web chat rooms are ubiquitous. The authorities have arrested a growing number of Web dissidents, but there just aren't enough police to control the Internet. So where is China going? I think the Internet is hastening China along the same path that South Korea, Chile, and Taiwan pioneered: In each place, a booming economy nurtured a middle class, leading to better schools, more international contact, and a growing squeamishness about torturing dissidents. By giving its people broadband, the Chinese leadership is digging the Communist Party's grave.
Nicholas D. Kristof [5/24/05]