But they aren't actually online ...
... they are behind a very draconian firewall.
There is, in my mind, a huge difference.
The Chinese government is hoping to close the country’s digital divide further by bringing a whopping 800 million of its citizens online by 2015, according to its latest pronouncement. The ‘internet development plan’ for 2011-2015 was unveiled on Friday by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, Xinhua reported. …
It wasn't that long ago when that would have described the UK. Cabling up a nation with roughly 20% of the world's population within its borders still with a huge proportion being agrarian working class living in the countryside is a somewhat larger challenge than BT faced!
Sure there is a firewall in place and I fully agree that people aren't fully free to do whatever they want. But its a good start in the right direction.
Rome wasn't build in one day and IMO you also can't expect countries like China to drop the whole communistic ideals over a day as well. Because in the end that could very well lead to chaos, and with a country as big as China I think that's in no ones interest, including the people living there.
If you look at China now and 30 years back then there is no denying that people have gotten more freedom. Sure; they aren't free by our standards but IMO you can't reflect on everything solely based on your own environment. Sometimes it doesn't work that way.
Example: many Chinese were actually happier when Google filtered the search results on their own accord then when denying to do so and being ordered by the government. Why? Because by applying filters themselves Google also showed the people which sites were blocked 'on demand' (by the 'firewall') and which weren't. In a way you could argue that by applying filters to their search engine in the way Google did they gave people a slightly bit of extra freedom (to see for themselves what is blocked or not instead of being left to wonder if the site was dead or a filter was being applied).
Yet many people in the 'free West' considered it highly immoral that Google would even do such a thing. Yet once again: when placed into context things may actually be a lot less evil than it may seem.
Just my 2 cents...
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