Meet The Peking Duck
Thursday, January 30, 2003 by Dave Winer.
Last year the big news was thousands of weblogs in Iran. Because I only read English, I can't read most of what they write, but I can see that there are excited people in Iran, experiencing intellectual freedom, against the law, against the religion; but doing it anyway. They're mostly young and mostly in the capital Tehran. Many are women. A repressive government with a wired populace. That can't last for long. Which one yields? Time will tell.
This year I've been reading a weblog called The Peking Duck. It's in English, from Beijing in the People's Republic of China, written by a courageous man named Richard. He reads Andrew Sullivan's weblog and expresses strong opinions about that and Beijing taxi cabs, rude smokers, elevators, and of course about his government, which tries to keep much of the Internet we take for granted from its citizens, especially the good parts. It's a wonderful site, he explains what it's like to be in Beijing; not the China tourists see, it's the China of the Chinese.
How much longer will The Peking Duck be available outside China, or for that matter behind the firewall in China? That's the big question. That, and how many Chinese will soon have their own place to post their opinions about everything that people with weblogs have opinions about, which is of course, everything. And as with Iran, which will yield? -- the citizens and the Internet that they love, or the government who (rightly) fears it?
China wants a modern economy and at least some of its citizens want the Internet. Not the Internet as television, which can easily be controlled by a repressive government; but the Two-Way-Web, where every person can publish his or her own newspaper, and read each others' accounts of the news, and people can form their own political parties.
I believe that China and Iran, both of which theoretically have one-party-systems, and the two-party systems of the west will experience an upheaval soon because of the Internet. Diversity is the rule. Politics isn't one-size-fits-all. Sure we have some common interests. But the Chinese government is as obsolete as the centralized media it depends on. In the future every citizen will define his or her own political party, along with his or her interests, beliefs, and whatever it is that makes people different from each other.
The technology of the 20th century made us all the same. Think about it. McDonalds, television, the Gap, MTV, even nuclear weapons made us all, even a Chinese man growing up in Beijing or a Jewish man growing up in New York, fodder for fission. But if we're going to solve the problems of our success, global warming, over-population, and the opportunities (space travel) we will celebrate our individuality in a safe way. The Internet is wonderful at doing exactly that.