Understanding the Internet
Internet usage in China has recently grown exponentially, rising from 59 million users in 2002 to 710 million by mid-2016. The concept of the panopticon is borrowed to describe the intensive surveillance and censorship imposed on the Internet within China. In 2005, an estimate of more than 30,000 Internet police scrutinized the cyberspace and immediately erased posts believed to be harmful because they contained pornography, rumors, or criticism against the party state. More importantly, Internet companies in China are urged by the state to impose a strong self-censorship. Spontaneous anticorruption attempts have helped identify a number of corrupt local officials by online whistleblowing. Aside from whistleblowing, Chinese netizens can influence public affairs by acting as citizen journalists, closely watching the development of public events, proactively expressing their opinions, and even pursuing offline investigations. The state's control and censorship over the Internet vary at different time points. This chapter discusses the structure of the book.