When Zhao Jing moved his blog to Microsoft's popular MSN Spaces site last summer, some users worried the Chinese government would block the entire service. The censors had blacklisted the last site where the young journalist had posted his spirited political essays, and he seemed unwilling to tone down his writing at the new address.This is a complex problem, interweaving government power, individual expression, and business competition. Blogging is open to everyone, so it will inevitably produce speakers like Zhao, who push beyond the edges of the speech that is permitted. Business-oriented persons like Fang want to make the whole enterprise work, but they may also have a wise perspective on the development of free speech. Nevertheless, they cannot hope to control all the Zhaos of the world. And what about Microsoft? Would it be better to be excluded altogether, like Blogger? Even if it deletes whichever blogs the government identifies as offending its repressive standards, there will always be many new blogs springing up within the service. It is inherent in blogging that there will be a very large number of voices. Isn't it better to find a way to create the place where blogging can happen? Or is Microsoft's unfair competition with the Chinese blogging services the greater concern?
But Zhao, better known by the pen name Anti, told fellow bloggers not to worry. If the government objected to his blog, he predicted, Microsoft would "sell me out" and delete it rather than risk being blocked from computer screens across China....
[Fang Xingdong, the author of a book that attacked Microsoft's market dominance as a threat to national security and chairman of Bokee, China's largest blog service provider] expressed concern about Zhao. "I understand his views, but I don't agree with his methods," he said. "If you use blogging as a political tool, you could destroy the development of blogging in China. When people like Anti come out, there's a lot of pressure on us. They're pursuing freedom, but it results in less freedom."
February 21, 2006
The WaPo has a long piece on blogging in China, where the government bans discussing politics and where Microsoft has shown its willingness to delete blogs that violate this ban, lest the government block MSN Spaces altogether: