Communist Party stirring for new crackdown on internet in China.

Loyal Readers have sent us several news articles this weekend about a new crackdown on the internet that is possible in China. This seems to set up a collision: on the one hand, President Brodhead's assurances about full access on the Kunshan campus, and on the other, the Communist Party and its grip on government.

Reuters, the international news agency, says there are "signs that Beijing, jolted by the growing audience and influence of Twitter-like microblogging websites, is weighing fresh ways to tame and channel online opinion."

Several party leaders joined in a long op-ed in the People's Daily -- the main newspaper of China's ruling Communist Party -- warning that Party control is at risk unless the government takes firmer steps.

"Among the many controversies stirred up on the Internet, many are organized, with goals and meticulous planning and direction, and some clearly have commercial interests or political intentions in the background," said the commentary.

"Unless administration is vigorous, criminal forces, hostile forces, terrorist organizations and others could manipulate public sentiment by manufacturing bogus opinion on the Internet, damaging social stability and national security."

China already heavily filters the Internet, and blocks popular foreign sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

The commentary listed a string of offending actions that have had their origin in microblogs. The first was the public outrage over a fatal crash on the bullet train -- the very train that former Dean Blair Sheppard touted as giving Dukies in Kunshan 9 minute access to Shanghai.

The bloggers aimed outrage at government officials for evasive statements, safety failures and feverish expansion of high speed rail. The trains now have been slowed down.

"In Internet battles, usually negative views crush positive ones," said the People's Daily, adding that extreme online opinion abounded with "unvarying suspicion of government policies, official statements, mainstream viewpoints, the social elite and the well-off."

The commentary said that the Chinese government had shot itself in the foot by letting Internet technologies take off and win huge followings before effective control was in place. That must change, it said.

"We have failed to take into sufficient account just how much the Internet is a double-edged sword, and have a problem of allowing technology to advance while administration and regulation lag," said the commentary.

Once the government tries to control an Internet technology that has already become popular, it faces "fierce resistance and a backlash" from users, and also international criticism, said the newspaper.

"Clearly, in the future when developing and applying new Internet technologies, there must first be a thorough assessment, adopting even more prudent policies and enhancing foresight and forward thinking in administration."

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