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TUESDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Internet a growing forum for dissent in China

While we as a nation regularly espouse the cause of freedom, we do not always trust its power in shaping international relations. We feel a need to control the events and perceptions of the world rather than let freedom fuel internal change.

Recent news gives us reason for optimism that China's status quo is in jeopardy not from a powerful America, not from a shortage in technological weaponry, but from its people.

With economic and governmental systems inimical to ours, the possibility of conflict with China is real. Add Taiwan into the mix — an island state that China wants and we have promised to protect — and conflict sounds likely.

A full-fledged conflict would be catastrophic, not just to the two nations but to the world. China has long had nuclear warheads and now has missiles that could get those warheads to mainland America. The strategy in U.S. dealings with Iraq, North Korea and Iran has been to prevent them from growing into a major power. That window passed decades ago with China.

Last week, China added to its smorgasbord of Internet restrictions by barring its citizens from posting Internet news services inciting "illegal" assemblies, marches and demonstrations. It also prohibited Internet activities on behalf of "illegal" civil groups.

The effort is not only revealing, it is futile. According to most reports China has had some success blocking its people from established Web sites, but in today's ever-expanding Internet, that's a small victory. Blogs, mass e-mails, Internet chat rooms and online forums make censorship efforts counterproductive.

Not only will the Chinese obtain the information their leaders want to block, they will know their leaders are trying to block it. Technology has granted to the Chinese what revolution could not: Freedom of assembly and free speech.

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