The Internet in China is more than just censorship. Largely unnoticed by most western spectators, Chinese companies have developed innovative digital solutions, providing users with home-grown ecosystems of apps, hardware and services.
Chinese netizen create new spaces of identity management, public discourse and civic engagement. These dynamics increasingly shape the pace of global digital innovation.
The creativity in this vivid community is both hampered and advanced by the Chinese government. Beijing blocks Facebook and Twitter, and progressively censors “sensitive” content on Chinese social media platforms like Weibo or WeChat.
But Beijing also supports a liquid and fast-moving private IT-sector. Companies like Alibaba start to export their services to other countries, esp. in Asia. This will influence the development of the World Wide Web.
Internationally, the Chinese government pushes for greater Internet-sovereignty. Microsoft is now forbidden to sell their latest OS (Windows 8) to Chinese government agencies and banks. China’s long pervasive Internet censorship and content regulation now spreads to international platforms as well – LinkedIn serves as one example.
If the above mentioned developments intensify, Europe may find itself in a position to choose between a Chinese and an American version of the Internet.