China's Internet: A 20-year Retrospective

September 8, 2016

On September 7, Kaiser Kuo took a large audience for a ride through the evolution of China's information superhighway. For students of contemporary China, there's no better window onto the fast-changing landscape than China's Internet. Both as a subject of research and an inexhaustible source of data, the Internet affords today's China-watchers a true embarrassment of riches. The Chinese leadership's efforts reap the obvious economic and social benefits that Internet technology offers while containing the potent and unpredictable forces it threatens to unleash has been one of the central themes in the discourse on China. While the focus on censorship can blinker us to much else happening on China's Internet, censorship is a feature that cannot and should not be ignored, and much is revealed as we examine the whys and the hows of censorship, as we look at the changing ways in which censorship has been implemented, and as we reflect on attitudes toward censorship by Chinese and China-watchers.

After over 20 years of watching the Internet develop from up close, Kaiser Kuo shared some of his thoughts on what some of the great underexplored topics are, and on what observers have overlooked or gotten wrong. Kaiser Kuo is co-founder of The Sinica Podcast. Until April 2016, he served as director of International Communications for Baidu, China's leading search engine. He recently wrapped up a 20-year stint in Beijing, where his career has spanned the gamut from music to journalism to technology.