The Internet and Emerging Civil Society in China
The debate on the rule of law and democracy sparked by Pan Wei’s essay assumes that neither rule of law nor democracy exists in China at the dawn of the twenty-first century. The Chinese government may have been building a legal system for decades, yet this system lacks transparency, accountability, and due process. It is not surprising, therefore, that Chinese citizens are increasingly resorting to contentious means in their struggles for a more just society. The Internet answers an immediate social need. It provides a new medium for citizens to speak up, link up, and act up against power, corruption, and social injustice. In this way, the Internet has influenced the development of civil society and given expression to grassroots impulses for political reform. No analysis of political change in contemporary China can afford to ignore these social forces. The goal of this chapter is to provide an empirical assessment of how the use of the Internet has influenced civil society development and thereby contributed, in explicit and implicit ways, to popular struggles for a more just society.