This week's reading in the Hanson book discussed the various consequences of new ICT diffusion on the role of nation-states. Hanson does a great job in summarizing the different perspectives on how modern ICTs are affecting national sovereignty and in providing real world examples to illustrate the theories of international communication researchers.
In many of the readings we have done for this class, it is accepted as unavoidable that modern ICTs, especially the Internet, make it more difficult for national governments to control the information flows in and out of their countries, ultimately affecting the ability of national governments, particularly in authoritarian states, to effectively govern. In chapter 6, Hanson shows that this is not necessarily the case by highlighting the current ICT governance situation in China.
She notes that the Communist Party of China has attempted to control the flow of information on the Internet with an array of technical, legal, political, and psychological approaches. The restrictive infrastructure for the Internet system in China, referred to as the "Great Firewall of China," is one means of controlling this. The Chinese government also has implemented an extensive and monitoring system in order to enforce Internet regulations. Severe penalties and fines can be administered if prohibited web activities are detected. Hanson also mentions the establishment of a student-run Internet monitoring group pioneered by Shanghai Normal University. This kind of monitoring organization surprised me, since it is run by and targeted at young people. I was surprised by the effectiveness of this mechanism, since in the US, I think we are often led to believe that young people in China, especially young university students, are at the forefront of pushing for democratization and increased freedom and transparency of the Chinese government.
Although it appears that the Chinese government's strategy for regulating the content that Chinese citizens can access has kept much of the information that the government considers subversive off the Internet in China, the ability for savvy and determined Internet users to still circumvent the elaborate Chinese regulatory system exists, and as Hanson quotes one observer as saying, "total control of today's vast, borderless, redundant cyber-architecture is not possible." I wonder at what point will it become too costly for the Chinese government to maintain their expensive and complex system of Internet regulation?