To start with, let’s get a handle on just how large a number that is. If every single person in the United States used the internet, we wouldn’t hit that mark. In fact, according to the US census bureau, China has more internet users than every other country has people (except India). But perhaps a visual aid is in order:
That’s what a hundred million pennies would look like, stacked as tightly as possible. 300 million pennies would weigh over 900 tons, or approximately the weight of six blue whales. For an alternative frame of reference, open this site 338 times and count the dots. That’s how many people are using the internet in China right now.
Of course, by the time you finish counting all of those dots, there will be more. A lot more. In the past six months alone, 40 million Chinese people have joined the ranks of China’s netizen community. Some Chinese are using their phones to access it (155 million). Some are playing games (30 million new online gamers in the past six months). Some are online shopping (14 million new users in the past six months). Plenty are downloading music and watching videos.
Perhaps most significant for this site is that there are 181 million Chinese bloggers. There are more bloggers in China than people in any country except India, the US, Indonesia and Brazil. Much has been said of late about web site closings, but one wonders how the internet censors could possibly keep tabs on 181 million bloggers at once. Of course, even if they could, that number, too, is growing.
There are probably ways to silence those people, but does shutting down every form of “free” speech in the name of stability really serve that cause effectively? People inside China and out are beginning to question that. The website blocking is unlikely to stop anytime soon, but as “the masses” become increasingly connected virtually, they’re also going to be increasingly annoyed when those connections suddenly and (seemingly) arbitrarily vanish. And, of course, among the 181 million there will surely be plenty of non-approved content that slips through the censors’ collective grip.
What do you think?