Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Power to the (Blogging) People

by Thomas L. Friedman

New York Times
September 14, 2010

This moment was inevitable. Ever since China began to shuck off communism and turn itself into a global economic power, its leaders have followed the strategy of a “peaceful rise” — be modest, act prudently, don’t frighten the neighbors and certainly don’t galvanize any coalition against us. But in recent years, with the U.S. economic model having suffered an embarrassing self-inflicted shock, and the “Beijing Consensus” humming along, voices have emerged in China saying “the future belongs to us” and maybe we should let the world, or at least the ’hood, know that a little more affirmatively. For now, those voices come largely from retired generals and edgy bloggers — and the Chinese leadership has remained cautious. But a diplomatic spat this past summer has China’s neighbors, not to mention Washington, wondering for how long China will keep up the gentle giant act. With an estimated 70 million bloggers, China’s leaders are under constant pressure now to be more assertive by a populist- and nationalist-leaning blogosphere, which, in the absence of democratic elections, is becoming the de facto voice of the people.