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In China, 120 Million Netizens Challenge Communist Control

OPINION features excerpts of pieces by columnists from the Op-Ed page and other sections of The New York Times. All columns from the last seven days are available at nytimes.com; Op-Ed pieces (by columnists and outside contributors), plus Editorials and Letters to the Editor, are at nytimes.com/opinion. Please let us know what you think of OPINION at upfront@scholastic.com.

China is not the police state that its leaders sometimes would like it to be; the Communist Party's monopoly on information is crumbling, and its monopoly on power will follow. The Internet is chipping away at the party, for even 30,000 censors can't keep up with 120 million Chinese Netizens. With the Internet, China is developing—for the first time in 4,000 years of history—a powerful independent institution that offers checks and balances on the emperors. The Internet is just too big and complex for State Security to control, and so the Web is beginning to assume the watchdog role filled by the news media in freer countries. "They can keep closing sites, but they never catch up," says one political blogger who puts up one blog as soon as another is shut down. In today's China, young people use proxy software to reach forbidden sites and Skype to make phone calls without being tapped. To me, this trend looks unstoppable. I don't see how the Communist Party dictatorship can long survive the Internet.

Nicholas D. Kristof [6/20/06]