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Living on the Cyber Border: Minjian Political Writers in Chinese Cyberspace Author(s): ZhouYongming Source: Current Anthropology, Vol.

46, No. 5 (December 2005), pp. 779-803 Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/432453 . Accessed: 06/09/2013 09:47
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C u r r e n t A n t h r o p o l o g y Volume 46, Number 5, December 2005

2005 by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. All rights reserved 0011-3204/2005/4605-0004$10.00

Living on the Cyber Border


Minjian Political Writers in Chinese Cyberspace1 by Zhou Yongming

This article focuses on the political writings of minjian (unofcial) online writers to examine the richness, uidity, and complexity of Chinese cyberspace. In a period in which Chinese society is undergoing rapid transformation, researchers have generally underestimated both this groups ability to express itself politically by using the Internet and the current states ability to improve modes of governmentality and apply more rened control mechanisms to minjian writers in particular and intellectuals in general. In this new domain, both the Chinese state and minjian writers have to negotiate new boundaries. On the one hand, by not identifying with either the state or the mainstream Chinese intelligentsia, minjian writers assert their new citizenship through receiving and interpreting information independently and holding very divergent political points of view. On the other, the state can also enlist new factors such as private capital to serve its control goal. The case of minjian online writers touches on a series of theoretical issues of great concern to anthropologists, among them citizenship, human agency, nationalism, political expression and practice, governmentality, and the relationship between state and intellectuals. This article is an attempt to contribute to a timely discussion of these issues through concrete ethnographic case studies. z h o u y o n g m i n g is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of WisconsinMadison (Madison, WI 53706, U.S.A [yongmingzhou@wisc.edu]). Born in 1963, he was educated at Duke University (Ph.D., 1997) and has been a Fellow of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars (200102). In addition to modern China, his research interests include technology, environment, and society, and globalization and ethnicity. His publications include Anti-Drug Crusades in Twentieth-Century China: Nationalism, History, and State Building (Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littleeld, 1999) and Historicizing Online Politics: Telegraphy, the Internet, and Political Participation in China (Stanford: Stanford University Press, in press). The present paper was submitted 12 iv 04 and accepted 20 i 05.

1. I am grateful to the American Council of Learned Societies, the Committee on Scholarly Communication with China, and the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars for their nancial support for this research in 200103.

If there were no Internet, it would never have been possible for me to have my words heard, said Lu Jiaping during an interview at his home in the summer of 2001. The 60-year-old Lu lives with his wife in a rented house in a village at the foot of Xiangshan in the western suburbs of Beijing. His two-room home is crammed with outdated cheap furniture and booksliving conditions that reminded me of those which were common 20 years ago. A desk stands in front of the window of the room that serves as his combined bedroom, study, and living room. On the desk is an old computer on which he writes articles on a wide variety of topics concerning Chinas foreign policy, military strategy, corruption problems, and political history. Lu identies himself as a selfsupported minjian (unofcial) researcher of the science of strategy. Since he has had no formal academic training, it is very difcult for him to publish his articles in mainstream scholarly journals and newspapers. He therefore relies on the Internet to circulate his articles and has gradually gained a growing audience in cyberspace. I had initially learned of him through online surfing and had interviewed him for the rst time in summer 2000. But the Internet had also brought him trouble. When I met him again in July 2001, his elder son had recently been arrested and jailed for 17 days for creating and maintaining his fathers web site. Barely computer-literate, Lu had to send his articles to his son in Hunan Province, who would then post them on his web site or send them out to a group of recipients, of whom I was one. According to Lu, the timing of the arrest was no coincidence. His son had been arrested on May 18, 2001, and released on June 4, the twelfth anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown, which is always a sensitive time for the authorities. Though the ofcial charge was distorting facts, spreading rumor, and disturbing social order, Lu thought that what had prompted the authorities to take action was some articles he had written in recent months on taboo topics such as the Tiananmen incident.2 Nevertheless, to the puzzlement of many observers, nothing had happened to Lu himself. His life in Beijing had remained normal, and he had continued writing about his sons arrest. Though access to his previous two individual web sites was blocked, two other web sites had not been interfered with, and he could still get his writings sent out by e-mail through the help of his sympathizers. The news of his sons arrest had obviously attracted further sympathy and attention not only from ordinary Chinese Internet users but also from the Western media. Lu had been interviewed by the Associated Press and Agence France Presse, and the New York Times had even published a report on the event (Eckholm 2001). Obviously, the authorities in Beijing and the local authorities in Hunan were not acting in coordination. Lu Jiaping is only one of the so-called minjian online political writers in contemporary China who will be the
2. Lu Jiaping Zhi Zi Hu Dalin Hunan Shaoyang Zhuo Fang Ji. http: //211.218.37.23/alljiapin/20010607.htm.

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focus of discussions to follow. I propose that the seemingly ambivalent position adopted by the Chinese state in dealing with Lu and his writings can be fully understood only in the broader context of postsocialist reforms and the advent of information technology. This article aims not only to provide a close reading of the writings of three inuential minjian online political writers, which are full of original, critical, and challenging ideas, but also to analyze the complex historical and social context within which this particular group of writers has emerged, the capricious conditions they have faced, the counterstrategies they have initiated, the contradictions they have carried with them, and the process of their development so far. In what follows I make three arguments linking concrete ethnographic study to issues of broad theoretical concern. First, what interests us most about the situation is how the states development of a new mode of exible governmentality (to use Foucaults term [Burchell, Gordon, and Miller 1991]) interacts with the enhanced consciousness of citizenship of the minjian writers, who aspire to a more independent and participatory role in Chinese politics. Though social and political space has been expanded since Chinese society entered an era of reform in the late 1970s, the process has been accelerated since the 1990s with both the increased embrace of a global market economy and the advance of new information technology. Ambiguities and self-contradiction seem to be inherent in the ongoing time-space compression that China is experiencing, which demands that the state not only adopt the exible accumulation strategies of a global capitalist mode of production but also quickly develop new modes of governmentality (see Harvey 1989). Second, when dealing with minjian political writings, the role of human agency in the reception and expression of information cannot be neglected, and Chinese Internet users are neither passive recipients of information nor easily subject to state manipulation. So-called Internet utopians assume that exposure to and reception of free information online will automatically make people well informed and lead them to embrace the presumably ideal state of human society, namely, liberal democracy and a market economy, or neoliberalism. This wishful thinking has never materialized. As the reader-response school in literary criticism has pointed out, however, the reader of a text plays an active role in deciphering and interpreting the meaning of a text. Different readers may have different responses to the same text, depending on tastes and literary connoisseurship conditioned by various factors at the time. The text itself cannot dictate the responses it will receive from readers (Tompkins 1980). Similarly, Chinese Internet users are not abstract receivers of online information who process and interpret it in a universal and standard way. In fact, they make their interpretations in the specic receiving context of contemporary China. Therefore it is not surprising that, as we shall see later, the availability of an enormous amount of outside information through the Internet has promoted the new wave of anti-Western thinking and

nationalism in China. At times, the better informed Chinese citizens are, the more nationalistic Chinese Internet writers become. Third, if Chinese cyberspace is characterized by ux, contradictions, and ambiguity, so are the identities of minjian online writers. These identities are never clearly dened, are constantly being reworked, and have the potential of border-crossing at any time. Minjian writers may obtain power in cyberspace to transform themselves into authoritiesthe very target of their initial iconoclastic writings. More important, there is often a substantial gap between political expression and the practice of what is advocated. Seemingly contradictory expression and action can coexist, making some minjian writers political experiences schizophrenic in nature. This complex picture of multiple receptions, expressions, and practices of online politics reminds us that cyberspace is not isolated from politics in the real world and individuals online political practices are conditioned by the sociopolitical contexts of contemporary China. In addition to the works of Lu Jiaping, this article will analyze the writings of Ji An and a political writer who uses the online name Anti to illustrate the theoretical issues just described. There are numerous online minjian political writers in Chinese cyberspace, and their writings are extremely heterogeneous. I have chosen these three writers, rst, because they are well established in Chinese cyberspace and have been inuential in one way or another. Lu has certainly made his name known beyond the Chinese sphere. Anti has been the webmaster of several lively bulletin boards and has attracted a following mainly through his online writings. Ji has been an extremely prolic writer and has reached a wide readership through mass e-mailing. In general, the names and writings of these three are well known to Chinese netizens who follow online political discussions closely. Another reason I have chosen them is that their writings are fairly representative of the broad spectrum of contemporary Chinese political thinking. Although all of them proclaim their distance from the ofcial position, their positions are often as distinct from each other as they are from that of the state. While Ji is known for his strong nationalistic and anti-Western rhetoric, Anti is more liberal-leaning and is often seen as pro-West. Lus writings are more ambiguous and mixed. At the risk of overgeneralization it could be said that their writings represent a continuum of political opinion online, with Ji at the left end, Anti at the right, and Lu tting in at center-left.3 By examining the work of these three writers I hope to present a snapshot of political writing in Chinese cyberspace. Any ethnographic researcher of cyberspace will face difculties in selecting representative online informants. This leads us to the methodological issue of how to con3. Leftists in China include Maoists, diehard communists, and those who are critical of the neoliberal world order. Rightists include those who advocate political reforms that would lead China into a fully free-market and democratic political and social system and are also called liberals.

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duct eldwork in cyberspace. Reecting on the conduct of virtual ethnography, the anthropologist Nicole Constable has said that one major problem she faced was knowing when to stop, given the absence of temporal and spatial boundaries in cyberspace (2003:4). In addition to the enormous amount of the information the Internet carries, the fact that it is in constant ux makes cyberspace difcult to study. The Internet is therefore a very different sort of eld site from the ones that anthropologists typically face. In earlier times, the anthropologist usually selected a group of people in a certain locale and lived and interacted with them for a prolonged period of time. A eld site in cyberspace has no denite physical boundaries, however, and its members can easily join and leave it. What, then, is it that denes a cyber-community? The answer is social relations. As pointed out by Raymond Williams, the sense of community has to do with the quality of holding something in common, as in community of interests, community of goods . . . a sense of common identity and characteristics (1985: 75). From that perspective, this study focuses on individuals and groups that have one thing in common that is, they are all involved in independent online political writing, although their locations in the cyberspace may not be the same. The question arises whether traditional ethnographic methods are applicable to this vast and constantly changing world. In fact, some Internet researchers nd Clifford Geertzs (quoted in Jones 1999:17) inuential view of culture as webs of signicance quite Internetfriendly in that one can study the Internet just as one can start anywhere in a cultures repertoire of forms and end up anywhere else. . . . One has only to learn how to gain access to them. A sociologist even says, Much as my personal biases lead me in that direction, I would never have the audacity to suggest that all social research projects ought to include participant observation. Yet with regard to research on interactive online forums, I recommend just that (Kendall 1999:57). Though delighted by observations that value ethnographic methods in the study of the Internet, I proceed with caution. First of all, conducting eldwork related to the Internet is intrinsically multisited because research is expected to pay attention not only to what has happened in the virtual world but also to what has happened in the real world in order to fully understand the dialectic relationship between the two. This situation is compounded by the fact that members of a virtual community often come from different social strata and different spatial locations. These unique characteristics demand that anthropologists make an effort to explore conditions of both virtual and real worlds as far as possible. Secondly, in addition to multisitedness, anthropologists nd themselves facing multilayered subjects and contexts that call for the development of new ethnographic research strategies. Given the complexity of cyberspace, methods must be case-specic, and none can be universally applied. For example, having selected the three Chinese online political writers as the focus of my research, I found out that I had to study them in different

ways. Because Lu uses the Internet in a very rudimentary way, mainly relying on his son to disseminate his writings online, I conducted traditional face-to-face interviews with him to gather most of the data. Ji is very computer-savvy and apparently more comfortable expressing himself in cyberspace. He declined my repeated requests for face-to-face interviews, and consequently I had to collect data mainly through online correspondence or virtual interviews and through reading his writings online. Anti, as a webmaster, was different from both Lu and Ji, and therefore I decided to conduct close online observation of ongoing discussions in the forums he managed as well as interviewing him person-toperson. In sum, I approached the challenge of the multilayered nature of Internet-related anthropological research by combining traditional and online eldwork techniques and treating cyberspace as an extension or new dimension of the real world created by human beings. In spite of all the hype that hails cyberspace as something of an independent entity, it is always the product of individuals interaction. The most important questions for studying these online political writers are who they are, what positions they hold, why they have adapted the Internet to politics, how they pursue their aims, and what kinds of relationships they have with the state.

Being Minjian: Pursuit of a New Citizenship


The emergence of minjian online political writers in China can be attributed to a number of broad social and historical factors. The rst is the reforms that China has experienced since the late 1970s, which have opened it up to more Western economic practices, political ideas, and advanced technologies. In the process, the Chinese state has relaxed its old Stalinist political control and allowed more room for civil political participation. Anthropologists were among the rst to observe this change from a civil-society perspective. As Mayfair Yang (1989) has pointed out, civil society had developed in China since the late Qing Dynasty but had been gradually eroded by the state since the establishment of the Republic of China in 1912 and subsequently of the Peoples Republic in 1949. It was not until the reforms of the 1980s that elements of civil society reemerged.4 Besides the political relaxation that made minjian political writing possible, the rapid development of the non-state-sector economy has provided alternative resources that enable these writers to survive in an increasingly competitive economic environment. The second factor is that Internet technology has provided a whole new way for minjian writers to express and disseminate their opinions publicly. By all accounts, the development of the Internet in China has been phe4. The applicability of the civil society concept to Chinese studies has been a topic of ongoing debate since the early 1990s. A special issue of Modern China (19 [2]) was devoted to the symposium Public Sphere/Civil Society in China? in April 1993.

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nomenal; the number of users has increased from a mere 620,000 in October 1997 to 94 million by the end of 2004 (CNNIC 2004). The Chinese have been quick to employ the Internet for all kinds of purposes, including political expression and participation, making Chinese cyberspace an extremely dynamic and multiplex entity. Once again, scholars have attempted to conceptualize this new development from a civil-society perspective. The sociologist Guobin Yang (2003) claims that the Internet and civil society have coevolutionary interactive dynamics and energize each other. While this broad concept is helpful in grasping the big picture of changes in Chinese society, I have been hesitant to use it as an analytical tool for tackling the complex phenomena of technological advancement and expanding political participation. Instead of adopting a preconceived theoretical framework such as civil society versus the state, I will focus on a single group and substantiate the discussions of related theoretical signicance outlined earlier with concrete case studies. Examined closely, minjian political writers are characterized by the conscious pursuit of a new citizenship centered around independence from state strictures in terms of both material well-being and freedom of thought. The term minjian is the antonym of guanfang. While guanfang can be translated as ofcial, for minjian it is more difcult to nd a single corresponding word. It can be translated as private or unofcial, with connotations of independent, marginalized, or outside the system, depending on the context in which it is used. During our interviews, all three minjian online writers emphasized independent thinking and an absence of political afliation as markers of their identities. For example, as we have seen, Lu called himself a selfsupported unofcial researcher, meaning that he did not rely on any institution, public or private, as a source of regular income and had no government connection or afliation with any political party. This is in sharp contrast to the period prior to the late 1970s, when Chinese citizenship was dened by total and unconditional identication with the socialist state and the Communist Party and manifested in afliation with the peoples commune in the countryside and with the danwei (work unit) in the city. Some minjian writers emphasize the individuals political position in their criteria for classifying the different camps of contemporary Chinese intellectuals. These criteria center on whether or not one acknowledges the legitimacy of and supports the current regime, or tizhi (system). Supporters of current regime are insiders to the system, and others are outsiders. In general, Chinese intellectuals can be divided in terms of three main binary oppositions: insiders versus outsiders, elite academics versus nonacademics, and dissident activists versus nonconformist thinkers. Most minjian intellectuals admit that, with regard to their relationship to the current system, they are outsiders but not activists, stopping short of the advocacy of organized dissent that has been viewed as the limit of government tolerance. Viewing themselves as independent thinkers and in-

sisting that they have an inalienable right to express their political opinions in public is another characteristic of their understanding of a new citizenship. All three online minjian writers told me that if there had been no Internet they would have kept on writing in traditional ways but would have had more difculty in getting the word out. Being outsiders with few academic resources and usually nonconformists, they were understandably marginalized in Chinese society. The Internet offered them a platform for which they had longed. Independent thinking and the conviction that they are doing the right thing by speaking out are exemplied by Lus writings. Lu put his name on the map of Chinese cyberspace with his April 2000 article on Chinas strategic mistakes in handling the U.S.-led military campaign against Yugoslavia, an article of more than 24 single-spaced pages which chronicled the major events between March 20 and June 10, 1999, including Chinese President Jiang Zemins European trip from March 20 to March 30, the start of the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia on March 24, Chinese Premier Zhu Rongjis trip to the United States from April 6 to April 14, the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade by American-led NATO forces on May 8, and Chinas abstention from the United Nations vote on the Kosovo crisis on June 10, 1999.5 His argument was that, in the current international order, the United States aimed to dominate the world and would take whatever measures were necessary to prevent the rise of potential challengers, namely, Russia, China, and the European Union. Since Russia and China were too weak to confront U.S. hegemony individually, the only option was for the two countries to forge a strategic cooperative partnership to counterbalance U.S. pressure and thus to form a multipolar structure in international geopolitics. The objective of this partnership should be to coordinate their actions to achieve a strategic superiority over the United States, since the latter would be reluctant to wage (or perhaps incapable of waging) war on two fronts simultaneously. Without much justication of his premises, Lu detailed the mistakes committed by the Chinese leadership that had proved detrimental to the consolidation of this Sino-Russian partnership. First, he said, President Jiang Zemin should have discontinued his European trip when the NATO bombing campaign started on March 24, in the middle of his visit to Italy, but Jiang had only issued a statement of protest, thus giving no substantial help to Russia when the latter needed it most. Worse still, according to Lu, the Chinese leadership committed a bigger mistake by letting Premier Zhu Rongji go ahead with his planned visit to the United States and Canada on April 6. At that point, the Sino-American relationship was at a low point because of a rash of China-bashing in the U.S. media due to alleged Chinese involvement in illegal campaign donations and the theft of U.S. nuclear secrets. In a news conference before his trip, Zhu remarked that the purpose of his trip was to
5. Zhongguo De Zhanlue Shiwu Yu Meiguo De Gaoming Jihua. http://211.218.37.23/alljiapin/shiwu/1-2.htm.

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let the Americans diffuse their anger. This anger-diffusing diplomacy, from Lus perspective, was equivalent to kowtow diplomacy. Though the Chinese leadership may have hoped to use this trip to win support for Chinas bid to join the World Trade Organization (WTO), from Lus perspective the trip destroyed Russias condence in the Sino-Russian strategic cooperative relationship and even sent Russia an alarming signal of Chinas seeming diplomatic drift toward the United States. To the surprise of many Chinese, the United States and China did not reach an agreement on WTO membership during Zhus visit. According to Lu, President Clintons rejection of Chinas WTO proposal dealt a blow to Chinas kowtow diplomacy. He went on to claim that the Chinese embassy bombing was not a mistake at all but a deliberate act by the Americans to discover Chinas bottom line on the Kosovo crisis. He even speculated that the Americans had informed the Russians about the bombing plan. The fact that the Russians had kept silent signaled the total collapse of the Sino-Russian strategic cooperative partnership and the total triumph of U.S. strategic maneuvers. Though Lus article was thoughtful, it could by no means be considered scholarly. His sources were mainly Chinese newspapers, and the writing was journalistic. Citations were few, and factual narrative and analysis were mixed with subjective suggestions and speculations. However, when it was posted on the Internet it was well received, frequently forwarded, and widely circulated. It presented a very different interpretation of Chinas diplomacy during the Kosovo crisis from ofcial writings and was therefore better received by dissatised readers seeking new opinions. It provided a more detailed narrative of many aspects of the event and a more sophisticated explanation than emotionally charged writings that offered fragmentary and simplistic statements. Finally, it was more readable than most scholarly articles because it combined coherent argument with rich speculation. Lus independent stance and unusually sharp critical style undoubtedly contributed to the popularity of his article. In contrast with a number of mainstream scholars who were skeptical of the effectiveness of the strategies adopted by the government but unwilling to challenge the government openly, Lu was willing to aim his critique directly at the Chinese leadership. Reading his article for the rst time on the Internet, I worried that it might cause him trouble, especially since he always posted all his personal contact information at the end of his articles and therefore the authorities would have no difculty nding him if they decided to do so.6 He was aware of this danger and always seemed prepared for the worst. I am not afraid of anything, he told me during
6. This information is formatted as an abbreviated re sume which includes his name, place of birth, age, veteran status, academic afliation (he was a member of the Chinese Association for the Study of the World War II History), publications, address, telephone number, e-mail address, and personal web sites. It was through this information that I was able to contact him and arrange interviews.

the interview in July 2001. He had been jailed twice because of his political opinions, once in the 1950s and again during the Cultural Revolution. In fact, only several days before our interview he had been summoned by the local police to have a talk. Having just experienced his sons arrest, he had asked his wife to prepare him a toothbrush, soap, and a change of clothes in case he was unable to return home. Fortunately, nothing happened to him after the local policemen questioned him about what he had been writing recently. Lu depends mainly on moral correctness to protect himself. He claims that his motivation for writing is for the country and the people and that it is his right as a Chinese citizen to speak out. Ultimately, by portraying himself as a patriot, he effectively excavates a larger space for his writings. After reading his article on Chinas strategic mistakes during the Kosovo crisis, few readers would disagree that his motivation for writing was the national interest, as illustrated by his strongly antiAmerican, anti-Taiwan-independence, and anti-Japanese stance in the article. Any radical action taken against him would make the authorities look bad. In fact, after Lu had made his name well known online, he continued to challenge the limits of admissibility of political writing by touching on more taboo topics and presenting arresting arguments. From late 2000 to early 2001 he wrote a series of articles discussing corruption in contemporary China, an issue of widespread concern. He claimed that the fundamental reason for widespread corruption was the single-party dictatorship of the Communist Party.7 In a two-part paper titled Anti-Corruption, June Fourth, and the Cultural Revolution, he argued that the main aim of Tiananmen movement had been to protest against corruption and the use of power in exchange for prot. In order to eradicate corruption, it was necessary to redress the Tiananmen movement.8 Such writing tested the nerve of the authorities, because reevaluations of the June 4 events have been taboo in Chinese political discourse since 1989. In sum, Lus writings reveal a number of characteristics of minjian online political writings in Chinese cyberspace: originality, sharpness, abundance, outspokenness, nonconformist stance, and authority-challenging bravery. It is through such writings that he and other Chinese minjian online writers are trying to dene a new citizenship that is based on their independence from the party-state and their conviction that their right of political expression is guaranteed by the constitution and, more important, good for the whole country and the Chinese people. So far, this claim to new citizenship has enabled them to obtain some degree of tolerance from the state and persist in Chinese cyberspace. Nonetheless, they are not free from the threat of prosecution from the state at all times.
7. Gongchandang Yidang Zhizhen Tizhi De Youlai. http:// www.usc.cuhk.edu.hk/wk_wzdetails.asp?idp327. 8. Fanfu, Liusi Yu Wenge. http://211.218.37.23/alljiapin/223.htm.

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Informed but Nationalistic: Receiving and Interpreting Online Information


Similar to Lu, Ji An has become well known online for his strong nationalistic writings. He is more a man of the cyber era than Lu, more comfortable with online communication. Though I have regularly received his articles by e-mail since I rst contacted him in summer 2000, I have been unable to interview him and can only guess, from the scattered personal information revealed in his writings, that he is a man in his mid-forties, has a good command of English, and has access to the Western news media and web sites not based in China. When asked where he is based, he says that he is a Chinese often traveling around the world.9 In this sense, he is rather like the cosmopolitan cultural subject that James Clifford (1997) describes but with the added dimension that he travels not only in physical but also in limitless virtual space. Ji is well known for his prolic online writing. During my interviews with other online writers and intellectuals in China, many of them acknowledged that they had heard Jis name and/or read his articles online. A number of them were apparently also on Jis e-mail list and received his articles regularly, although some expressed annoyance at receiving so many. Because he writes many short pieces on a broad variety of topics, it is very difcult to summarize his positions, and his improvised writing style often makes his arguments less credible to mainstream intellectuals. Nonetheless, his writings contain some thought-provoking points. What rst attracted me to him was his advocacy of Zhongguoism (Chinaism). To understand his argument, we need to consider a substantial extract from one of Jis articles entitled Basic Principles of Zhongguoism:10 Zhongguoism advocates the Chinese struggle for the prosperity of China and the Chinese nation through the path of self-reliance; it advocates that all Chinese enjoy happiness in life and maintain self-condence, self-esteem, self-strength, and independence. Zhongguoism advocates that the Chinese working people obtain and enjoy the fruits of their labor fairly and equitably. . . . Zhongguoism advocates constantly raising the general level of science, culture, and knowledge of all Chinese, to eliminate illiteracy in the whole country as soon as possible. . . . Zhongguoism advocates the unity of the Chinese nation and reunication with Taiwan at the earliest possible time. . . . Zhongguoism advocates that China establish and
9. Indeed, Jis gender identity is only a supposition on my part. Since one could easily have multiple identities in cyberspace, I caution readers not to take it for granted that Ji is male. 10. This is a rened and abbreviated version of an article Ji wrote on February 13, 2000, and which was rst put online at the Voice of Internet Friends (Wangyou zhisheng) forum of Peoples Daily Online the next day.

maintain strong national defense forces that can defeat all foreign invading forces at any time. Though Ji emphasizes that Zhongguoism is a concept open to all ideas benecial to China, it is apparent that it does not include democracy, freedom, and human rights. This is an intentional omission. In fact, in Jis writings democracy is often ridiculed as an instrumental concept employed by Westerners (particularly Americans) in their own interest and as a pretext for U.S. hegemony in the world. Several days before his Zhongguoism declaration he wrote an article in which, in his trademark free-owing, half-sarcastic style, he said that the min (people) lacked substance in the word minzhu (democracy, literally min people zhu control). Putting quotation marks around the word democracy, he denied any possibility of true democracy either as idea or as practice: In summary, if you ever encounter someone associated with democracy, you should say to him or her rmly and condently: My friend, dont talk democracy to me. What do you want to say? What do you want to control? How do you want to control it? Please use your own name and your own words. It is not necessary to use democracy as trademark to sell your goods; it will be ne if you sell them using your own brand name. If everybody does this, then the word democracy can be put to rest.11 Jis unique attitudes toward Zhongguoism and democracy challenge us to rethink a series of assumptions about Chinese cyberspace. The rst of these is the assumption that the Internet has an intrinsic democratizing function in authoritarian societiesan assumption that was common at the initial stage of the Internet boom but that has now been more or less discarded. As more and more people have realized, the Internet can be used by different people for different purposes. While it has been used to promote democracy and enlarge free expression, it has also been used to conduct nationalist mobilizations. A second assumption is that if the Chinese government does not control the Internet, the increasing ow of information will have a positive inuence on Chinese minds and enhance the pursuit of democracy. Nevertheless, the picture of online politics in China has turned out to be more complex than expected. Many China observers overlook the fact that the transmission of information is a process that has two parts: sending and reception. It would be a mistake to focus only on how information gets through, forgetting that the available information can be reinterpreted by the Chinese receivers in ways radically different from the expectations of free information advocates. And their interpretations are largely conditioned by the general social context, which provides a time-space-specic paradigm for processing the information received. In the whole process, information receivers have always played an important
11. Ji An Zhitan Minzhu, February 10, 2000. http://www.network54. com/Hide/Forum/message?forumidp115965&messageidp994392 314.

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role in selectively receiving and actively reinterpreting the information received. In fact, Jis promotion of Zhongguoism online requires us to look at Chinese nationalism in the information age from new perspective. The rise of Chinese nationalism in the 1990s has attracted much scholarly and media attention. Many have pointed out that contemporary Chinese nationalism has become more assertive, aggressive, and chauvinistic in recent years and tried to provide explanations for this. Some attribute the rise of nationalism to the need of party-state to ll the void left by the collapse of communist ideology; others consider it a defensive reaction to external challenges (Friedman 2000, Liu 2000, Zhao 2000). While some pay special attention to the promotional and manipulative role of the state and call it a state-led nationalism, others think that the emergent Chinese middle class has become nationalistic because its encounter with the West and its media is restricted and supercial (Zhao 1998, Zhang 1998). In analyzing the popularity of Chinese nationalist writings in print in the late 1990s, two media-studies scholars have made the interesting point that nationalism in todays China has considerable consumption value and that the media sell packaged nationalism at a huge prot and with an ofcial blessing (Huang and Lee 2003). While the above analyses touch on different aspects of contemporary Chinese nationalism, they share a focus on external shaping factorsthe manipulative state, the need for a new legitimizing ideology, the perceived foreign threat, the prot-seeking market, or lack of access to Western media. What they do not pay enough attention to is the role of human agency. Ji and other minjian writers have assigned themselves a new citizenship by deliberately maintaining independence from the state and ofcial positions. They are not merely subjects that submit passively to the states manipulations; rather, they are active individuals engaging in independent thinking. Most of them have little access to the Chinese media market, and monetary concerns seem to play little role in their writings. The availability of the Internet and, in Jis case, frequent international travel make them well-informed about the outside world. It is in this new context that minjian online writers are taking initiatives of their own to express their political opinions. Jis coining of Zhongguoism was a deliberate design to maintain distance from both the party-state and Western ideology from the beginning. Realizing that adopting terms such as patriotism or nationalism would inevitably conate his thinking with state ideology (patriotism being promoted by the state) or subject it to attack by Chinese liberals and the Western media as a tool of the party-state, Ji made an effort to present Zhongguoism as a new concept and a new theoretical framework. In order to avoid errors in translation, he had coined the English word Chinaism as the translation of Zhongguo Zhuyi and called those who practiced it Chinaists. (It is unclear why he later shifted to Zhongguoism; in all probability he thought that the new term had more Chinese connotations.) All of these actions

show that Ji was making informed choices on his own initiative, with the clear purpose of being different and independent from both the state and the West. He optimistically predicted that Zhongguoism would become an ideology shared by all Chinese in generations to come. If we see Chinese minjian writers not as passive information-receivers but as independent individuals who make their own interpretations, then how can we explain their criticism of the idea of democracy? I suggest that they have adopted a new interpretive framework for examining the once-cherished values of democracy and freedom in the context of Sino-West (especially SinoAmerican) relations. Since the early 1990s growing numbers of Chinese have become suspicious of Western discourses of democracy because they suspect that the Americans are using ideas of democracy, freedom, and human rights as ideological tools for promoting tangible U.S. interests. From this focused perspective, the concept of the national interest has been emphasized as the ultimate goal of all national and international undertakings, and the new paradigm is legitimized by giving it the basis of rational thinking and claiming that this interest-driven focus is less ideologically charged. Because of these characteristics, it has gained lasting and encompassing power in forming a Chinese worldview (see Deng 1998, Zhou 2005). Jis article Thank You from the Bottom of Our Hearts, Mr. Clinton! is illustrative. It was written on May 15, 1999, a week after the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. In it Ji proclaimed that with this event American-style democracy, American-style human rights, everything American instantly revealed their repulsive appearance. This unprecedented American-style bombing has unparalleled inuences in patriotic and nationalist education on the Chinese in general and on Chinese youth in particular. He asserted that the bombing had destroyed Chinese illusions about the Americans and argued that its effects would mean that the Chinese would not be misled by the United States and other Western countries for hundreds of years. For all these reasons, he thanked Clinton for the bombing and sarcastically labeled him the best American in its 200-plus-year history.12 About a year later Ji wrote an article entitled From May 4th to May 8th [the date of Chinese embassy bombing]? From Democracy to Nation! in which he again employed anti-Western rhetoric. He raised the question why China was still so weak almost a century after the May 4th Movement of 1919:13 Is it because we have not talked enough of Western democracy? No, on the contrary, it is exactly because we have talked too much of Western democracy. In the past hundred years, we have talked about Western democracy so much that we have forgotten the Chinese nation. Many Chinese have
12. Zhongxin Ganxie Kelindun. http://www.network54.com/Forum/message?forumidp115965&messageidp994201765. 13. Wusi Dao Wuba? Minzhu Dao Minzu! http://www.network54. com/Forum/message?forumidp115965&messageidp994 578276.

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had the illusion of having become Westerners while continually talking about democracy. From May 4th to May 8th, it was not until bombs had fallen on their heads that they nally remembered that besides Western democracy there was a nation called the Chinese nation, and they nally understood that Chinese were Chinese, Westerners were Westerners. It is not surprising that Ji has been labeled an extreme nationalist by other online discussants, and he himself has acknowledged this description. As a matter of fact, he has claimed that nationalism is most fundamental in the Zhongguoism that he has advocated.14 Apparently, although he does not like the label of extreme nationalist because it carries negative connotations in both the Chinese and Western media, he has not been very defensive about it. In the article mentioned above, he claimed that he had contempt for the idea of wholesale Westernization but was not worried about its materialization in reality because of his conviction that Chinese culture was superior to Western culture and could not be Westernized. His conscious promotion of Zhongguoism and his critical attitude toward Western ideology, even though often unsystematic and improvisational, signies the independent thinking of minjian online writers, who are not only merely informed but also actively engaged in reinterpreting information in a way that maintains distance from both party-state and Western ideologies. This distance-maintaining activity not only asserts the new citizenship they seek but also gives it a nationalist tone.

Political Expression versus Practice


Sitting across from me in a west-side Beijing MacDonalds in early November 2002, Anti said, Liberals dont read Ji Ans articles, neither liberals nor leftists read Lu Jiapings articles, but both leftists and liberals read my articles online. I am the most representative minjian online writer in China. This was the rst time I had met him, though his online writings had shown up on my radar screen some time before. Realizing that he had not convinced me with this assertion, he went on to explain why his articles were widely read: For liberals, not only are Ji Ans nationalist views unacceptable but also his writings are often illogical and free-owing. He does not even recognize the basic rules and format of serious writing (yansu xiezuo). Lu Jiapings positions on different issues are so self-contradictory that nobody knows what he is talking about. How can his articles be readable? Why were his own articles read by both camps? Because even though I am not and have no desire to become a member of the mainstream intelligentsia, I am a minjian writer adhering to basic writing
14. Zhongguo De Minzu Zhuyi Reihan Dingyi. http://www.network 54.com/Forum/message?forumidp115965&messageidp994251 054.

codes, he replied. And what made him a minjian writer? Because I am an outsider to the current system. Period. Anti stands at opposite end of the political spectrum from Ji. Now in his late twenties, he has experienced a more complex life than many of his contemporaries. He has been a hotel reception desk manager, a software salesman, a computer programmer, and an unsuccessful entrepreneur, and at the time I met him he was a Beijing correspondent for the Guangdong-based 21st Century Global Herald.15 An uncompromising stance of outsider is Antis trademark, and his name, which he explained is not his original one, reects this. After he had gone through a series of life transformations in which he became a Christian and a skeptic with regard to the system, he changed his Chinese name to An Ti and adopted as his English name Michael Anti. The name was a symbolic proclamation that he was determined not to accept anything established, sanctioned, or promoted by the current system in China. In retrospect, his ability to access information outside of the system played a decisive role in his personal transformation. His interest in Christianity started in high school, when he was attracted to gospel broadcasting by a Hong Kong radio station. His transformation into an absolute nonconformist in relation to the system came after his online reading regarding the Tiananmen movement in early 1999. When the Internet allowed him to examine versions of the tragic events of 1989 that differed from the ofcial version, what remained of his condence in communism and the current regime was shattered, and he became a devout Christian and sought refuge in God.16 Anti seems to be an example of the power of free information to transform a person into a lover of freedom and democracy. As pointed out earlier, individuals are not passive receivers of information; they receive information selectively and often reinterpret it in terms of their own frameworks. If we look at Anti from this perspective, his embrace of Christianity and liberalism is only one of many different forms of reception of Western ideas among the Chinese during the information age. The three minjian writers under discussion here show how multifaceted and complex the picture is. In fact, what interests me most about Anti is the apparent contradiction between his online advocacy of liberalism and his often less tolerant treatment of different opinions in his own bulletin-board forums. Broadly speaking, political expression is one form of political participation, dened as the efforts of ordinary citizens in any type of political system to inuence the actions of their rulers (Shi 1997: 5). Because of the special context of Chinas postsocialist state, most minjian writers have been conned mainly to expressing their political opinions online. Anti distinguishes himself from Lu and Ji by the fact that he is not only an online writer but also an active monitor of bul15. According to his estimate, the newspaper had a circulation of 200,000 nationwide. It was closed down in 2003. 16. Wo Xin Jidujiao De Xiangxi Guocheng. http://www.xici.net/ board/doc.asp?idp2096933&subp9&doc_oldp1.

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letin boards, engaging in the actual politics of cyber-communities. When one takes a close look at his practice in cyberspace, the disjunction between his political expression and that practice is apparent. Since December 1998 Anti has frequented Xici Hutong (http://www.xici.net, literally Lane of the West Ancestral Temple), an inuential Nanjing-based virtual community, partly because of its convenience and partly because of its reputation for open-mindedness. Dissatised with the unfocused and vacuous discussions that lled many bulletin-board forums, Anti opened his own forum, Re-see Review (Ruisi Pinglun), on the Xici Hutong in August 2000. He outlined its objectives as threefold: being an original and critical magazine, promoting penetrating independent thought, and adopting a rational and tolerant attitude. The Internet made the transformed, rebellious, and cynical Anti known to hundreds of thousands of people. Anti has a classically liberal stand concerning the government. His deeply rooted skepticism is reected in his posting with the title Let Us Guard Against Government as We Guard Against a Thief, Whether Chinese or American. He argues that the government is like a monster eager to invade citizens rights. Even though we cannot get rid of this monster, what we can do is to guard against it all the time and make it less evil in the world. He uses Watergate and McCarthyism to show that the U.S. government is capable of becoming a monster if not controlled. But he differentiates the U.S. government from the Chinese government in that the former is always checked by the courts, Congress, and the media, as demonstrated in the Clinton sexual scandal. Anti has no condence at all in the Chinese government, claiming that since it is the government of a communist party which has the courts, the Peoples Congress, and the media under its control, there is no way to resist it if it chooses to infringe on citizens rights. Anti is optimistic about the role the Internet could possibly play in changing the current Chinese situation of unchecked government. He thinks that the Internet, in contrast to the government-controlled traditional media, could gain some independent space and function as a public-opinion platform and watchdog if everyone spoke the truth. Under such conditions, the government would have second thoughts about committing new crimes, and step by step a democratic system would appear in China without war and turmoil. Anti acknowledges that only two years earlier his posting would have been deleted by the Xici Hutong webmasters for its open criticism of the government. By 2001, however, such postings had become very common, signaling an expanded space of political participation and thus the progress of tolerance in Chinese society.17 Viewing free access to information as one of the most important preconditions for Chinas becoming a democratic society, Anti has enthusiastically advocated a
17. Xiang Dingzei Yiyang Tifang Zhengfu, Wulung Zhongguo Meiguo. http://www.xici.net/broad/doc.asp?idp5038188&subp37&doc_old p1.

new journalism since he became a newspaper reporter in 2001. Though he has not given a clear denition of this term in the Chinese context, what it means is that journalists are required to report an event from an objective, neutral position, without value judgments. There is no doubt that Anti is an admirer of the American system of journalism, especially newspapers such as the New York Times: Every time the New York Times is mentioned, I cannot help but salute it. I have too many nice words for this newspaper. It is this newspaper that has established real journalism, real journalists, and really journalistic quality and style. The history of the New York Times is the history of the American freedom of journalism. Up to today, it features the most outstanding journalistic writing and perspectives and takes a neutral political position. The Internet has certainly played an important role in helping him reach the conviction of the freedom of journalism in the United States. When I am reading the [Pulitzer] web site [http://www.pulitzer.org], I thank the Internet, which enables us to get rid of the garbage of Chinese journalism education.18 Anti can be classied as a liberal in the Chinese political context because of his yearning for freedom in journalism, his belief in freedom, democracy, and justice, and his open nonconformity in relation to the government. Yet, ironically, when it comes to monitoring his own forum, his style sometimes reminds forum participants of experiences that are not very different from the state-controlled Strengthening-China Forum on Peoples Daily Online. His seemingly pro-Western position often places him in opposition to net surfers who have strong nationalist sentiments. After the collision of a Chinese jet ghter and a U.S. spy plane on April 1, 2001, in which a Chinese pilot was drowned and the U.S. plane made an emergency landing on Chinas Hainan Island, some accused him of keeping silent. Excusing himself as having been busy and lacking knowledge of military affairs and international law, he took a few days to read the relevant material and then, when he felt condent enough to speak out, took the opportunity to criticize the governments press statements about the event. He pointed out that in fact the U.S. spy plane had not entered Chinese air space, since China did not have sovereignty over the 200-mile exclusive economic zone, and the landing of the plane on Hainan Island was the response to an emergency, not a deliberate invasion.19 Though he acknowledged that the United States should apologize to China and considered George W. Bushs handling of the incident inadequate, he was perceived by
18. Xin Xinwenren Zixue Shouce. http://www.xici.net/main. asp?boardp158363. 19. Chunxia Zhijiao De Meilijian Dali: Zhongmei Zhuangji Shijian Zhong De Yuyan, Falu, Zhengzhi Wenti. http://www.xici.net/ board/doc.asp?idp4713446&subp24&doc_oldp1.

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forum members as unacceptably pro-American, and his position was ridiculed and attacked.20 As the webmaster, Anti responded by deleting these critical postings from the forum. In a public notice, he asked all patriots in his forum to go to other forums or face the risk of having their postings deleted.21 This was neither the rst time he had exercised such power nor the last time that he would do so. The issue of how to monitor the forum created a dilemma for him. On the one hand, in October 2001 he strongly protested the Xici Hutong webmasters having deleted postings in his forum.22 On the other, a month later he reiterated to members of the Re-see Forum that he would always keep my ax shining, because Re-see is mine, a point that needs no discussion. . . . My forum is going to be run according to my rules.23 In fact he was running his forum in a way no different from others, including those involved in ofcial censorship. Antis seemingly contradictory position on Internet censorship has attracted attention from net surfers in the Xici Hutong. A brief comment posted in November 2002 attributed Antis celebrity status to his ability to use online writing to challenge the dominance of traditional writing contexts. Yet it noted that it would be dangerous if successful online writers like Anti were to seek to establish hegemony over online discourse. If this trend continued, the message suggested, Anti and his peers would form a new elite controlling online discourse and thus would become the real masters of the seemingly free and democratic discourse of cyberspace.24 Antis success in online writing and the praise and criticism he has subsequently faced reveals another aspect of the complexity of Chinese cyberspace. He is basically a challenger of existing rules rather than a maker of new ones. His writing style and his strong antiestablishment spirit have pushed back the states line of tolerance to a certain degree, resulting in an expanded space for freer political discussion online. However, when it comes to practicing freedom of expression in his own forum, he defaults from time to time by deleting postings that he considers inappropriate. Though censorship may be a necessary means of keeping the forum viable and discussion focused, it contradicts the principles of freedom of expression that Anti cherishes. To the extent that he uses his newly gained dominant position online to suppress others rights to express legitimate but different opinions, the split between his online political expression and virtual political practice will remain.
20. Ibid. 21. Gao Ruisi Quanti Aiguo Renshi Shu. http://www.xici.net/ board/doc.asp?idp8465862&subp50&doc_oldp1. 22. Yanzhong Jinggao Xici Dishuiping De Wangluo Kuaizishoumen. http://www.xici.net/board/doc.asp?idp9758651&subp34&doc_ oldp1. 23. Wo Shizhong Baochi Banfu XueliangRuisee Gaiban Shengming. http://www.xici.net/board/doc.asp?idp10008775&subp48&doc_ oldp1. 24. Wangluo De Xin Huayu Baquan. http://www.xici.net/board/ doc.asp?idp21602597&subp5&doc_oldp0.

Border-Crossing Strategies: Negotiating Minjian Identities


What these three minjian online writers have shown us is only the tip of the iceberg of the complexity and uidity of Chinese cyberspace. Given their consciousness of a new citizenship that views the right of political expression as vital and inalienable, minjian writers distance themselves from mainstream and ofcial intellectuals. While they are generally well informed, they are not passive receivers of enormous amounts of information through the mass media and the Internet but engage in active interpretations which are manifested in their online political writings, and their attitudes may not always be consistent with their practices. Their minjian identity is not xed or free of ambiguity and contradictions and must be negotiated if it is to survive in the capricious Chinese political context. I use the term negotiating to point to the fact that although all three of the above-mentioned online writers are proud of their minjian identity, this does not prevent them from adopting non-minjian tactics from time to time to make themselves more acceptable and less marginalized. This seeming ambiguity and contradiction is understandable if placed in context. After all, being minjian writers in China often means having to live an uneasy life, with pressures coming from two sides. On one hand, they have generally been neglected and marginalized by the mainstream Chinese intellectuals who control most resources, such as newspapers, scholarly journals, and academic accreditation. On the other, they generally lack formal and informal connections with the state and often face the danger of having their web sites shut down or being prosecuted by the state. In this unfriendly environment, they have to adopt strategies to avoid trouble and to escape marginalization. Besides putting his articles online, Lu also uses traditional ways of disseminating his writings, sending them out to friends, enthusiastic readers, ofcials, newspapers, and government bodies. He would be very pleased if his writings were to receive positive responses from persons of power and status. For example, in an article in which he proposed strategies for liberating Taiwan, he reported that he had received a telephone call from the secretariat of the Military Committee of Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party praising his suggestions and informing him that they had been conveyed to higher authorities for consideration. He is also willing to accept interview requests, mainly from foreign media outlets, and makes it known that his book on the Cuban missile crisis has been published (in Chinese) in the United States, although not by a reputable academic press. Anti has ridiculed Lu and Ji for depicting themselves as anti-Western defenders of the national interest while in reality being eager to be reported on by the same Westerners for whom they express contempt. A more conscious manifestation by Lu of a desire to become more acceptable to mainstream intellectual discourse is that he has started to give his articles endnotes

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and lists of citations. Though these are still not formatted in the way editors of academic journals would require, they represent a big step forward for a writer without formal academic training. In contrast to Lu, Ji has retained his free-owing writing style and shown no sign that he will make any changes, but this does not mean that he has made no effort to disseminate his writings to larger audiences. Establishing an electronic magazine, Zhongguo Zhuyi (Zhongguoism), is his way of challenging the monopoly of resources possessed by mainstream academics. The magazine has more than half a dozen editors and has published many issues since its inception in 2000.25 Jis online writing has also attracted the attention of a number of mainstream Chinese intellectuals, including Wang Xiaodong, Fan Ning, and Cui Zhiyuan. Cui, a U.S.trained political scientist who has taught at MIT, is listed as one of editors of Zhongguo Zhuyi, though it is difcult to know how active a role he has played in it.26 Anti has always been haunted by the fear of being marginalized, especially in his early days as an online writer, when he was often troubled by mixed feelings of self-condence and inferiority. In one of his online essays in 1999 he claimed that so-called minjian science enthusiasts possess outstanding ability in transmitting and analyzing materials, but we are also in a sad position, because we dont possess resources.27 In August 2000 he lamented that after a close reading of many intellectual web sites, he had not found a single one in which his name had appeared. After one and a half years of online writing, this result was so discouraging that he had even thought about giving up writing.28 However, he and his comrades online believe that the Internet provides them the best way of challenging the existing system. Zhu Haijun, a well-known online writer who died young, once predicted that more and more academic resources would become accessible online and eventually the writers and scholars of the next generation would rely on the Internet to establish themselves.29 Anti, in response to criticism by a scholar at Nanjing University for his unorthodox writing style, has claimed that traditional training in collecting and analyzing academic materials is obsoletethat with many materials online and strong search engines, some traditional disciplines will die.30 Antis prediction may be overcondent, but it certainly has its merits. China is in the process of a profound transformation in many domains, and the boundary be25. The URL of this webzine has changed several times. Online readers can still access many parts of it at the URL http:// www.network54.com/Hide/Forum/115965. 26. Lu was also listed as an editor, but he complained to me that Ji had put his name on the list without his consent. 27. Yetan Minjian Kexue Aihaozhe. http://www.grass-land.com/ cgi-bin/bbs.exe?idpqqc&msgp4883. 28. Wangluo Yeyu Sikaozhe De Ganga. http://www.xici.net/board/ doc.asp?idp1508580&subp26&doc_oldp1. 29. Zhi Anti Xiansheng Lun Wangluo Wenhua Jianshe. http:// www.xici.net/board/doc.asp?idp1762685&subp2&doc_oldp1. 30. Wenxianxue: Yichang Pangda De Fanggu Yiying. http:// www.xici.net/board/doc.asp?idp4199445&subp13&doc_oldp1.

tween the mainstream and the marginalized has become blurred. Anti does not deny that it was only after he had become famous online that he could get his current job. By 2002, using the title famous online commentator, he was able to participate in cultural events usually open only to intellectuals, for example, becoming one of the invited speakers at a forum commemorating the fth anniversary of the death of the popular Chinese writer Wang Xiaobo.31 Given his rebellious stance, it seems unlikely that he will ever identify himself as a member of the mainstream. One interesting episode which reveals tensions is that when he discovered that the Century China web site (one of best-known intellectual web sites) had put a collection of his online writings in its archive of scholars works, he announced that he did not feel comfortable with being labeled as a scholar and in early 2002 requested that the webmaster remove the collection from the site.32 Each of these three minjian writers has made strategic choices in an environment in which they have to ght constantly against political pressure, mainstream prejudice, and inaccessibility of resources. These choices often result in extreme complexity and frequent contradictions in both their writings and their lives. Mainstream intellectuals have responded to their nonconformism in two ways. The rst has been simply to treat them as the outbursts of lunatics. For example, one university professor admonished Anti not to focus on the dichotomy between minjian and mainstream but to equip himself with knowledge that would gain him acceptance in scholarly circles.33 The second, represented by Xiao Gongqin, a well-known Shanghai-based scholar, has been to appeal to other mainstream intellectuals to treat emergent marginal intellectuals with more sympathy and understandingto make an effort to include them within the system.34 Xiao has further suggested that if the marginal intellectuals do not receive acceptance, their frustration and discontent may converge with that of the disadvantaged classes of society and subsequently become a cause of social unrest.35 It is obvious here that Xiao is treating the marginalized intellectuals with condescension, undervaluing their role as brave challengers to the existing system dominated by the party-state in which mainstream Chinese intellectuals are still very much embedded. The numerous contradictions and conicts involved in the lives of minjian writers are the results not just of their individual initiatives but also of the structural constraints imposed by the state. To fully understand these writers we have to ex31. Minjian Juhui Jilu. http://www.wangxiaobo.com/jinian/5th/ 1.htm. 32. Wo Zai Shiji Luntan De Gongkai Shengming. http:// www.xici.net/board/doc.asp?idp11732553&subp17&doc_oldp1. 33. Luoja Shaozhu, Anti Pipan (1): Zaiyan Yu Yuliu, Zhibei Yu Chaoyue? http://www.xici.net/board/doc.asp?idp2667293&subp22& doc_oldp1. 34. Xiao narrowly denes urban marginal intellectuals as those who do not rely on state employment for a living. 35. Dangdai Dushi Li De Bianyuan Zhishiren. http://www. booker.com.cn/gb/paper18/35/class001800001/hwz181730.htm.

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amine their relationship with the state and the role of the state in shaping the identities of Chinese intellectuals since the late 1990s.36

Flexible Governmentality: The State and Intellectuals in the Information Age


The Chinese states efforts to control the Internet have become the focus of both media attention and scholarly work because of the widely shared assumption that the Internet performs a democratizing function in Chinese society. This new focus is of course historically specic. Just as people focused on the civilizing or modernizing effects of modern science and technology to establish and legitimize the ideological dominance of the West in an earlier historical period (Adas 1989), in the era of neoliberal globalization we emphasize the democratizing function of the Internet, a technology that is perceived to be both a very good t with and even an enhancement to liberal democracy and a free market economy. But the unfounded expectations of the Internet utopians have proved short-lived, and scholars have recognized that the technology can be used by the Chinese state to strengthen its scope of governance (Kalathil and Boas 2001; Hachigian 2001, 2002). That the state can only react defensively and passively to the challenges presented by this new technology is a false assumption. In fact, in a very short period of time, the Chinese state has come up with not only the means to control and police cyberspaceaspects we usually focus onbut also rened and exible strategies for governing this new domain. Its treatment of intellectuals, including the online minjian political writers, is a case in point. What I propose here is that, on entering the postsocialist and information age, the Chinese state has adopted a mode of exible governmentality in which it differentiates political writers into different strata and applies to them a series of graduated control strategies ranging from outright suppression through limited tolerance and subtle enlistment to full support. The minjian writers occupy a unique borderland between outright suppression and mainstream cooperation, putting them in a position that is, on the one hand, more challenging to the regime and, on the other, fraught with unpredictable consequences. The contemporary Chinese intelligentsia can be divided roughly into four groups: ofcial, mainstream, minjian, and dissident. Ofcial intellectuals are tools and mouthpieces of the party propaganda machine. When the term is used, it is often used contemptuously. The state has supported this groups venture onto the Internet by establishing red web sites to promote the ofcial line, but its actual inuence is limited by its close ties to the state and party organs (see, e.g., Xie 2002). Dissident intellectuals are advocates of changes in the political system and engage in organized dissent in China
36. For an up-to-date study of relationships between intellectuals and the Chinese state, see Gu and Goodman (2004).

and overseas, and the state has adopted a zero-tolerance policy toward them. Its outright suppression of online political dissidents is well documented and is not our main concern here. It is mainly the mainstream and minjian intellectuals for whom the state has had to devise new strategies. Mainstream Chinese intellectuals were quick to take advantage of the Internet technology by setting up the socalled intellectual web sitesweb sites that focus on academic, critical, and theoretical discussions. These sites usually have three major parts: a webzine for electronic publication, a bulletin-board forum for the informal exchange of ideas, and a digital archive for the effective dissemination and retrieval of scholars works. Webzines can be seen as online editions of regular journals, in which articles are selected and published by web editors. Since a web site can be easily turned into a webzine, these online journals are very difcult to monitor, and Chinese intellectuals have enthusiastically embraced this new opportunity. Though most Chinese intellectual web sites started after 1998 and therefore have very short histories of operation, they have gone through complex developmental detours. Generally speaking, the majority of the rst generation of Chinese intellectual web sites were run by individual intellectuals and operated on a very limited scale. Later on, the number of institutional web sites sponsored by cultural establishments such as academic institutions or existing intellectual magazines increased. Initially the state seems not to have known what to do about these new web sites, and its actions ranged from shutting them down to pressing webmasters to exercise self-censorship. In general, however, it has refrained from closing off this space entirely. The closing down of several early intellectual web sites illustrates the states initial concern over the problems presented by an uncontrolled electronic press, but the frequency of the closing down of intellectual web sites is generally much lower than the frequency of the establishment of new ones. It seems that the state has resorted to a more rened control mechanism than was used against the traditional print press. An interesting recent development in Chinese intellectual cyberspace is that the state has taken the initiative to enter this domain by actively enlisting cooperation from the intellectual establishment, with the help of private capital. Century China (http://www.cc.org.cn) is arguably the most inuential intellectual web site in Chinese cyberspace today, but it is no ordinary intellectual web site. Claiming independent status and engaging in trendsetting academic discussions, it is in fact part of a large government information-technology project called the China Social Development Network. It is hosted by a corporation (CSDN Ltd.), supported by private capital, and edited by an established cultural institution outside mainland China (the Institute of Chinese Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong). Theoretically, the parent company, backed by the state, has the nal say on editorial decisions, but in fact, as one webmaster acknowledged to me, it rarely interferes in editorial mat-

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ters. How come? I asked, and the webmaster answered, Well, it all depends on the mutual understanding both sides have reached. We have known each other for some time, and the other side knows our record. We know where the forbidden areas are and will not cause trouble for them (see Zhou 2003). The case of Century China marks a new trend in the states dealings with Chinese intellectuals online in which the state may enlist cooperation from mainstream intellectuals and in which private capital has increasingly been an important player. The Century China web site could be seen as a complicated example of what Mayfair Yang (2002:333) calls tension between state and capital in the cultural realm, in which capital not only challenges state regulations by providing alternative resources to intellectuals but also plays a regulatory role by tacitly requiring intellectual web sites to operate in ways acceptable to the state in order to safeguard its investment. The state and private capital have successfully transformed such intellectual web sites into new platforms for elitist and mainstream intellectuals with their emphasis on scholarly and rational discussions that are less politically challenging to the state. Although mainstream intellectuals try to differentiate themselves from ofcial intellectuals, their established status and embedded relationship with the state often make them more likely than minjian intellectuals to succumb to pressure. It is minjian writers living in the border area who challenge the state more directly. On the one hand, many minjian online writers have found that they are subject to the same exclusion from the mainstream intelligentsia as they had encountered before. On the other, their independent stance and sharp writing style have caused them to fall under the watchful eye of the state, placing them in constant danger of being censored, harassed, or even interrogated. For example, after the April 2001 collision between the U.S. spy plane and the Chinese jet ghter, Lu Jiaping wrote several articles calling the incident the beginning of a new cold war and condemning the soft position taken by the Chinese leadership toward the United States.37 As he later admitted, it may have been his May 14 article that nally led the authorities to take action against him and his son. Its title was Finally There Are Different Voices in Ofcial Newspapers, and it contained his response to an article published in the Global Times, a popular international-news-oriented newspaper published by the Peoples Daily. Lus enthusiasm for the article can be explained by its title, which was Closely Observing American Strategic InitiativesWe Must Think of Our National Security Strategy and Take into Account the Worst Possibility. It had made him think that his criticism of the Chinese leaderships appeasement and its
37. Zhongmei Zhuangji ShijianShijie Xinlengzhan Shiqi De Shifa Dian. http://www.confuse2000.com/confuse16/49.htm; Zhongguo Haiyao Xiang Hechu Tui? http://www.confuse2000.com/ confuse17/05.htm.

soft and na ve attitude toward the United States was nally being echoed by an ofcial newspaper.38 Four days after helping put this article on the web, Lus son was arrested by the local authorities in Hunan Province. A subsequent episode is a good illustration of the different attitudes toward the pressure of the state between mainstream intellectuals and minjian writers. While Lu had praised the Global Times for daring to publish different voices, his praise had made the newspaper very nervous. On May 20 a deputy editor-in-chief of the newspaper called Lu and, after thanking him for his support and praise of the newspaper, told him that the authorities might not be happy to hear such frank wordsthat there was a possibility that Lus article would bring the newspaper and the author trouble and negative consequences. Eventually he asked Lu not to distribute his article on the Internet or give it to other parties and suggested that it would be better if he deleted the article from his personal web sites. When Lu told him that his son had already been arrested for posting the article on the Internet, the editor was obviously embarrassed and expressed his regrets over the situation.39 The arrest of his son for posting his articles on the Internet was the price Lu paid for the right to speak in a different voice based on his conviction of a new citizenship. Although the authorities in Beijing took no further action against Lu, the local police have summoned him for a talk from time to timealways treating him very politely and explaining that they were merely following orders and had nothing against him personally. Furthermore, on November 6, 2002, Lu called me to cancel an interview because he had been ordered by the local police to leave Beijing immediately, a preemptive action taken with sensitive gures like himself to ensure that nothing would disrupt the Sixteenth Party Congress that was to open two days later. After the dust of the Party Congress had settled, Lu came back to Beijing and continued writing. The above seemingly contradictory actions by provincial and Beijing authorities and the attitudes shared by policy makers and local-level state functionaries show us that the contemporary Chinese state is not a monolithic and static authoritarian regime. In the new domain of cyberspace governance, it has developed a more exible control mechanism that combines multilayered tactics; repression is not its only option. In terms of governing intellectuals political writings online, the states strategy of differentiating groups and subjecting them to graduated control has been quite effective. Faced with the uncharted waters of the Internet, different players have to come up with new tactics and strategies to keep up with developments. Positioning themselves between the dissident and the mainstream intellectuals, the minjian online political writers will always live in a border area where their writings are continually testing the lim38. Guanfang Baozhi Shang Zhongyu Youle Butong De Shengyin. http://211.218.37.23/alljiapin/514.htm. 39. Wei Guojia Minzu Shuo Zhenhua Shihua, Women Quanjia Yao Zaonan. http://211.218.37.23/alljiapin/20010521.htm.

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its of state tolerance and, by doing so, constantly negotiating and redrawing boundaries with the state in this new domain.

Conclusions
By discussing three minjian online writers, my aim is not only to direct our attention to an extremely colorful and active realm in Chinese cyberspace that has been little studied but also to help us rethink the conventional understanding of Internet politics in China as well as other places. In terms of the roles, positions, tactics, and attitudes adopted by Chinese intellectuals, the emergence of minjian online political writers in Chinese cyberspace presents a more complex picture than can be explained with such frameworks as state versus civil society or authoritarian control versus free participation. As we have seen, the case of minjian online writers touches on a series of theoretical issues of great concern to anthropologists, among them citizenship, human agency, nationalism, political expression and practice, governmentality, and the relationship between state and intellectuals. This article tries to contribute to a timely discussion of these issues through concrete ethnographic case studies. Even though most researchers have abandoned the technologically deterministic expectation that the Internet will change China, their focus is still on the state regulation and control that impede the free circulation of information. What they have generally neglected is the agency exercised by Chinese Internet users in using these technologies and actively reinterpreting online information. The consciousness of a new citizenship that sees independent political expression as the inalienable right of every member of the Peoples Republic has emboldened minjian writers to speak out on politics. These writers have actively taken advantage of the new technology to become informed and to reach a wider audience for their writings. By maintaining a certain degree of independence and not identifying with either the state or the mainstream Chinese intelligentsia, they assert their new citizenship mainly through their online political writings. The agency of these online writers also manifests itself in the way in which they receive and interpret online information. As we have seen , the increasing availability of free information has not transformed them into a monolithic group of fans of Western ideology. They interpret information independently and hold very divergent political views. It is from this perspective that Jis writings on Zhongguoism are of special signicance. Even though in a rudimentary form, this term signies a conscious effort by Chinese minjian writers to distance themselves from both state-led nationalism and liberal Western ideas. Drawing upon a new interpretive framework based on their understanding of contemporary international relationships, the better informed they are, the more nationalistic and anti-Western they become. Worse still for those who emphasize the potentially lib-

erating and democratizing role of the free ow of information, the reality is far more complicated; the case of Anti shows that even those who espouse democratic ideology do not automatically apply it to their practice in real life. The role of citizens engaging in politics online is not, of course, unique to China. Anthropologists and scholars in other disciplines have pointed to the importance of the Internet in dening citizenship, nationalism, and transnationalism in cyberspace (see Hughes 2000, Lieberman 2003).40 The cultural critic Ravi Sundaram (2000) argues that in India, with the opening up of cyberspace, citizenship, borders, time, and history are being actively reworked and various players have to come up with local/regional strategies for remapping national identity. The process is full of contradictions. He describes the dual roles played by Indian cyber-elites in, on the one hand, seeking emancipation from the old nationalist grid and, on the other, helping in the creation of a naturalized space of India on the web. As he points out, in Indias virtual space new practices have emerged which have sought to both overcome the corporality of the nationalist border, while at the same time attempting to create new nationalist electronic communities conforming to a Hindu imaginary. And the multifariousness of Indian cyberspace is a reection of state, neo-elite, and popular strategies to negotiate the crisis of the old Panoptical grid of nationalism and the supremacy of the Border (pp. 282, 289). The complexity of politics in cyberspace is the key issue this article has tried to address. Unlike the technologically savvy cyber-elites in India, the minjian Chinese online writers are in a border area, but they represent the section of Chinese intelligentsia that can pose the most potent challenges to the Chinese state. In a period in which Chinese society is undergoing rapid transformation, researchers have generally underestimated both this groups ability to express itself politically by using the Internet and the current states ability to improve modes of governmentality and apply more rened control mechanisms to minjian writers in particular and intellectuals in general. Treating intellectuals as those whose social practice invokes claims to knowledge or to the creation and maintenance of cultural values, the anthropologist Katherine Verdery (1991:4, 16) points out that they played an important role in dening national ideology in socialist Romania that was appropriated by the Communist Party but at the same time was a major element in destroying the Partys legitimacy. Though China today differs from socialist Romania, the Chinese state faces the same dilemma: how to deal with intellectuals who could be either helpers or destroyers of its legitimacy. We have seen that the reforms and the introduction of a market economy have provided minjian writers the resources to maintain their inde40. Ong (2003) discusses how the diaspora Chinese professionals mobilized to forge an Internet-based global racial citizenship in response to the 1998 anti-Chinese attacks in Indonesia.

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pendence from the state, but the state can also enlist new factors such as private capital to serve its control goal. By differentiating the intelligentsia into multiple strata and treating them in different ways, the state has opened up some online space for newly emergent netizens while utilizing exible monitoring mechanisms to govern cyberspace. Nonetheless, we should see these mechanisms as a process rather than a xed set of tactics, because the rapid pace of technological development and social and political changes is forcing various parties to engage in constant conict, maneuvers, and negotiations. Given the constantly evolving nature of online discourse and publishing and the increasing consciousness of a new citizenship on the part of Chinese Internet writers, the states ability to govern this new domain will be constantly tested. Only by studying the concrete context of Internet politics both on- and off-line can we fully understand the richness, uidity, and complexity of Chinese cyberspace. This article is a preliminary attempt to address a daunting task that requires further efforts by both anthropologists and Internet researchers.

Comments
chuang ya-chung College of Hakka Studies, National Chiao Tung University, 1001 University Road, Hsinchu City 300, Taiwan (vcc622@mail.nctu.edu.tw) 11 vii 05 This article is an analysis of the political potential and limits of the new and fast-changing cyberspace of a wellwired postsocialist China. Zhou examines not just the contents of the messages but also how they have been received. His study is a contribution to Internet studies for its vivid descriptions of three online writers and the reception of their writings. Authorship and readership in cyberspace are problematized, and both their precariousness and their die-hard defense are appraised. Zhou argues that minjian online political writings present a space of ambiguityof border-crossing. On the one hand, the independent writers are having their voices heard on a regular basis, which is a big difference from the situation of their silenced or even jailed, if not killed, dissenting predecessors. On the other hand, the Chinese government has developed a more exible control mechanism that combines multilayered tactics. The question of how the same government whose leaders just a decade ago ordered the machine-gunning of its student critics has come to terms with a new governmentality is of interest and concern. Zhous opposition to technological determinism in a transition to democracy relieves him of e-topia wishful thinking, but the burden is on him to explain why minjian writings are in circulation. He acknowledges that crackdowns on possible online dissidents have never actually stopped without saying that various state-of-theart web-censorship programs have been developed and

installed. For one answer, he gives us a very complete content analysis of these three writers works, which he views as not only independent but also system-challenging. In contrast, I nd the scope of the criticism represented in this article quite problematic. Repeatedly emphasizing that minjian means independent, no more and no less, Zhou insufciently addresses the discourses in question in a broader political context. For one thing, though he indicates that Lu Jiaping and Ji An, two of his three protagonists, do not passively follow state-led nationalism, his analysis of their strategically nationalistic criticisms largely overlooks the likelihood of mutual support between these critiques and the party line. As a scholar based in Taiwan, I cannot but notice with alarm that Lu Jiaping once wrote an article proposing strategies on how to liberate Taiwan and received a phone call of praise from the military and that Ji Ans Zhongguoism demands reunication with Taiwan at the earliest possible time, in accord with the terms of the notorious antisecession law that has just been passed in China. Of course, I am not arguing that their positioning themselves as opposed to Taiwan independence makes their criticisms less critical and more collaborative. What I am trying to say is that this new exible governmentality that Zhou attempts to identify has less to do with the ways in which the government approaches intellectuals than with a change of mind-set on the part of individuals both in minjian and in state agencies. What is not fully investigated in this article is how this change of mind-set and hence the current system have developed. The arrival of the Internet age in this particular conjuncture obviously complicates this change both in scope and in scale. Under the circumstances, the question of agency is even more difcult to explore. Because, as Zhou explains, any activities of dissent in China are instantly neutralized and minjian only comprises individualized commentaries, all studies of social movements and organized activism as agencies of social change fall short in the face of this extreme situation. The old Foucauldian inquiries about resistance have come back to haunt us. Are we really living on the cyber border, or is the system simply regrouping and becoming even more overwhelmingly powerful? For anyone who believes that the former is the case, a search for real system-damaging (rather than merely system-challenging) actions, either in digital or in real life, is urgently needed. nicole constable Department of Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15217, U.S.A. (constabl@pitt.edu). 23 vi 05 Zhous work among minjian (unofcial) Chinese online political critics demonstrates the potential for ethnographers to analyze and engage with popular modes of thinking and writing and simultaneously to challenge simplistic and stereotypical assumptions about the im-

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pact and ow of ideas across global and virtual terrains. This timely and thought-provoking article challenges persistent popular assumptions about the Internets liberating potential. Zhou offers insightful examples of the active and heterogeneous ways in which three Chinese Internet writers receive and interpret texts and information and of the complicated and varied ways in which the Chinese state responds. As I began thinking about this commentary, the New York Times ran an article with the headline China Tightens Restrictions on Bloggers and Web Owners (June 8, 2005). The article announced that new Chinese government regulations had recently gone into effect to police the Internet, including ofcial registration of all web sites, exclusion of off-campus users from universityoperated bulletin boards, and the employment of online commentators to defend the governments point of view when negative comments appear on Internet chat rooms. The new regulations are reported to have taken effect in the wake of the Spring 2005 protests, in which millions of people throughout Chinacommunicating via the Internet and cell phonesprotested against allowing Japan a seat on the UN Security Council. The article quotes from Reporters Without Borders, whose comments reveal their underlying belief in the threat that Internet critics potentially pose to the Chinese government and by extension their assumptions about the Internets liberating and democratic potential. The news article depicts a monolithic, unambiguously authoritarian and repressive Chinese state that is increasingly concerned about the Internets destabilizing potential, thus adopting a simplistic authoritarian control versus free participation framework of which Zhou is rightly critical. In the Times article, the political spaces of the Chinese Internet are understood in stark and dichotomous terms: political expression is either the ofcial state perspective or it is potentially revolutionary (and liberating) and therefore forbidden as soon as it is discovered. In contrast to the Timess main concern with dissidents, Zhou focuses on unofcial political critics. He argues that the Chinese state has become increasingly exible in its attempts to deal with cyberspace, but he does not romanticize its approaches to governmentality. He points to the states zero-tolerance attitude toward political dissidents and recognizes the precarious position of many minjian intellectuals who are subject to censorship, harassment, and interrogation but continue to assert their new notions of citizenship. His attention to human agency helps reveal a more complicated situation both in terms of the relationship between the state and the Internet and in terms of minjian writers ability to respond independently, differently, and critically to the Chinese state without automatically casting themselves as dissident opponents of the state or advocates of Western-style democracy. Zhou also identies an increasingly blurred line between mainstream and minjian writers. What we learn less about is the origins and varied understandings of the four categories of intellectuals and

the more problematic blurring and shifting of the line between minjian and dissidents. The Times article made me wonder whether this recent Internet crackdown wasas most have been aimed at dissidents and whether it would have had much impact on minjian writers like Zhous three protagonists. I imagined that Anti, Ji, and Lus son would register with the authorities and continue to assert their citizenship, claiming the right to express their independent and unofcial political views online. I also imagined, on the basis of Zhous characterizations, how each might have reacted to the article and the anti-Japanese protests. Zhous ability to maneuver between the micro and macro political spaces of the real world and of cyberspace, which he rightly sees as an extension of the world created by human beings, is impressive. One methodological issue, however, concerns the social lives of minjian intellectuals. Zhou comes to know Lu and Anti online and off and thus gains a good sense of the Internet as an extension of their lives (which makes me wonder whether they are in any way representative of wider different-generational views), but Ji is known to Zhou only online and thus remains more enigmatic. Given his refusal to meet face-to-face, I wonder whether he has anything to hide? How far can an analysis of online materials be pushed without some off-line conrmation? Given the importance of agency to Zhous analysis, it is difcult to appreciate Jis risks and choices without a fuller appreciation of his/her off-line social roles and status. guo yuhua Department of Sociology, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China (guo-yh@mail.tsinghua.edu.cn) 7 vii 05 This article is a signicant probe into a new eld of anthropological inquiry that calls to mind kindred research projects on the globalization of McDonalds stock markets, scientic laboratories, genetically modied organisms, and so on. All these projects indicate a new ethos and orientation for todays social and cultural anthropologythe studies of everyday life to which James Watson pointed in saying, In eldwork you live where people live, you do what people do, and you go where people go (1997: viii). As cyber-life becomes increasingly popular all over the world, anthropologists will have to go with people and interpret their actions and thinking in unique waysdoing ethnography in cyberspace. Facing a cyber eld site populated by netizen informants in a community without denite physical boundaries, Zhou has produced an exploratory ethnography of the virtual and the real combined. The challenge here comes not only from the new domain of online informants and nonexistent temporal and spatial boundaries but also from the complicated political and social background of Chinese life, which involves interaction and inter-construction between online and off-line, virtual and real, opinion and practice. Zhou has chosen

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three inuential and representative minjian political writers for study and through describing them elucidated some central characteristics of Chinese politics and subtle changes in the arts of domination (Scott 1990) in their complex historical and social contexts. This research is an estimable contribution to both theory and methodology. As Zhou points out, his study has uncovered only the tip of the iceberg, given the extreme complexity and uidity of Chinese cyberspace and the extremely intricate and covert situation of Chinese politics and society. The combination of freedom in economy and despotism in politics creates a complicated context. Although the three types of online writers characterized by Zhou all take minjian as their basic identity and are proud of their minjian characteristics, which include being independent, marginalized outside the system, distan[t] from both party-state and Western ideologies, and even sometimes brave challengers to the existing system dominated by the Party, the political ecologies in which they are located are very different. Against the background of a posttotalitarian and transformative Chinese society, the relationships among the minjian online writers, intelligentsia, state ideology, and Western hegemony can become extremely complicated and involved. The minjian online writers cannot be in a natural relation of opposition to the ofcial. If they adopt the stance of nationalism and execrate Western domination, for example, they will ensure a safer environment for themselves even if they criticize the governments unsuitable foreign policy or mistakes at the same time. There is even a phrase in Chinese that describes this behavior: small scold but big help. Writers who adopt the stance of liberty and democracy will be at greater political risk because of their identication with the West. In other words, a state-led nationalism may throw stones at Western hegemony on the surface, but at its core it is opposed to the idea of liberty and democracy. Nationalism can be said to be the product of the need of the party-state to ll a void left after the collapse of communist ideology or a defensive reaction to external political and cultural hegemony, but it ultimately serves to maintain totalitarian domination. The postsocialist and cyberspace age presents anthropologists with new elds of vision and new challenges. In going where the people go, we must pay attention to the variety of minjian online writers as well as of Chinese intellectuals. Zhou has made an important start toward understanding these important harbingers of social transition in China. randolph kluver Singapore Internet Research Centre, School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore 637718 (trkluver@ntu.edu.sg). 9 vi 05 Zhou takes up the interesting case of the rise of minjian or outside writers who employ the Internet as a means

of reaching a public they would not have otherwise. This is one of the key elements in the emerging dance between the Chinese government and netizens who see in the Internet the means not only to inuence publics but also to achieve a bit of fame along the way. A signicant amount of scholarly analysis has already focused on bulletin boards and online forums in Chinese politics, and Zhous essay examines the new online context for dening Chinese identity. I remain unconvinced, however, of some of the key assumptions of the piece. For example, Zhou fails to convince me that the minjian writers represent any sort of community that ought to be taken seriously. By their own admission, they are not attempting to connect with each other or with any larger political movement. Moreover, the Internet itself, despite the promises of online community, is as likely to fragment communities as it is to bind them. By contextualizing the piece in the framework of an online community, Zhou sets up the expectation that these writers will have some collective identity that begins to challenge the dominance of the Communist Party. But the fragmentation that occurs in the online environment means that the potential for collective strength is signicantly weakened. Antis complaint that after a year and a half of writing no one had cited him indicates the extent to which the Internets promise to unite marginalized communities and political actors remains illusory. If these writers do not represent a community, then why should they be taken seriously on an individual level, in the sense of expecting them to remake Chinas social or political fabric? There is obviously some sympathy within China for these writers and some responsiveness to their writings, but to what extent do they present anything to contemporary Chinese society beyond their own vanity? This is an issue that Zhou might develop further. Is there any real potential for inuencing policy makers or creating some sort of alternative platform for discussing what Chinese society will become? Secondly, Zhou promises to demonstrate that the writers represent a desire to create a new citizenship and that the Chinese government is responding with a new mode of exible governmentality. This argument could be greatly strengthened by focusing less on the new and more on continuity. In stressing the novelty of politics online, Zhou falls into the same trap that he condemns elsewhere, the technological determinism that argued that the Internet would inevitably democratize the nation. Rather, there is a long tradition in Chinese politics, going back centuries, of the use of essays by outsiders to correct political leaders. Liang Qichao and the May 4th Movement, the use of dazibao during the Cultural Revolution, and letters to newspapers in more recent times all are part of the same attempt to demonstrate patriotism through correction of the government. Moreover, the government is indeed responding with more nuance than Western commentators tend to acknowledge. So what is new here? The online environment has produced more of these would-be Liang Qichaos, but it has not produced anything signicantly dif-

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ferent. Moreover, governmental tolerance of the various online writers reects a long tradition of moderated attention to or even promotion of different newspapers, novelists, playwrights, and other types of writers, usually, as the journalist Liu Binyan could attest, to advance one political agenda or faction over another. In spite of these criticisms, the essay does help to focus attention on one item of signicance in our understanding of the social impact of the Internet, which is that the results of increased information are not always clear. As Zhou points out, more information from the West does not necessarily make Chinese netizens more proWestern but often has the opposite effect. The Internet is a space contested by dissidents, the government, and ordinary surfers just looking for entertainment, but the value and, indeed, the nature of that space are still as unclear as projections about who will win it. lee chin-chuan Department of English and Communication, City University of Hong Kong, 83 Tat Chee Ave., Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong (encclee@cityu.edu.hk). 18 vii 05 In this fascinating article Zhou provides a nuanced and non-reductive account of how the new art of government or exible governmentality of the state in China interacts with the enhanced consciousness of citizenship of the minjian writers, who aspire to a more independent and participatory role in Chinas politics. He deftly paints a larger moving picture of the newly emerging cyberspace politics in China based on a snapshot thick-description of three minjian writers. Ethnographic work par excellence, this article is richly contextualized and yet highly mindful of the complexity, ambiguity, and contradictions involved in the posited social relationall presented with admirable sophistication (and often with poetic irony) of observation, analysis, and interpretation. I aim to express my appreciation for his contribution by extrapolating a host of questions as food for thought to enrich our further understanding. In order to establish the validity of a theoretical argument, we must seek to refute or weaken rival explanations. It is thus legitimate to think the unthinkable: Do the three writers portrayed simply represent a group of lone marginalized intellectuals-cum-publicityseekers who happen to succeed in taking advantage of cyberspace as a technological resource and cultural capital? How independent are they, and how independent is independent? What measures do they take to get around ofcial taboos? Is there an emergent formation of a virtual organization of discourse communities, with recognizable followers in each camp and, equally important, ideological contestation among the champions of respective doctrines? Assuming that such communities do exist, how do their members decode what scholars of Chinese political culture have called esoteric communication? The ideological landscape of Chinas cyberspace ranges from the Old Left through neo-conservatives, Party re-

formists, and liberals to the New Leftwider than the prototypes presented by Zhou. Are the minjian writers distributed along this line? Do they constitute a social stratum? Can they be considered organic intellectuals in the Gramscian sense? Or do they retain the lingering legacy of Confucian literati responsibility fused with Marxist populism as self-appointed voices of the people? Do they epitomize a new breed of writers? If stripped of new technological guises, are they reminiscent of the fugitive, pre-professionalized journalists and writers of early Republican China? Zhous interesting argument for new citizenship cries out for further conceptual elaboration and empirical evidence. To the extent that a minjian society means relative autonomy from state stricture (akin to Berlins [1969] concept of negative freedom) whereas a civil society means active participation in public governance and in the dening of everyday life (akin to Berlins positive freedom), it is crucial to gauge the extent to which these writers are conscious ofand willing to defend their own citizen rights and duties. The fact that they claim to be unafliated with the established power does not preclude the possibility of their aligning themselves ideologically with various elements of popular sentiment and, in turn, producing sharper, often hyperbolic and always truncated variations on mainstream themes. Overall, these three writers display considerable anxiety over their efforts to identify Chinas place in the globalizing world. The two advocates of nationalistic sentiments, in particular, largely collude and only to a much lesser extent collide with the dominant ideology; to borrow Stuart Halls (1980) terms, they are at best negotiated readings but by no means oppositional readings in relation to preferred readings. Zhou maintains that the state has developed a new art of government to deal exibly with cyber writers arrayed on a spectrum of ideological sympathies. This is an insightful hypothesis but insufciently substantiated. What is the content of this new artskilled use of coercion conjoint with the production of hegemony? How was this art developed? How does it alter the structural limits that constrain or enhance the writers exercise of discursive power? Does it modify any formal mechanisms or informal channels of state control? At the heart of the question is the uncertain and painstaking process of negotiation and contestation between agency and structure. Particularly revealing is the example that the state has co-opted private capital to found a highly respected academic webzine, Century China, with editorial responsibility entrusted to a Hong Kong university. Ironically, the manifestly liberal and pluralistic orientations of this webzine, albeit dressed up in opaque professional language and academic style, are decidedly not in accord with Chinas ofcial ideology. This episode amply demonstrates the indeterminate nature of ideological control, incorporation, and contestationa process of practical struggle with twists and turns in which consequences may turn out to contradict or subvert intentions. To push this point a bit farther, does this process of contestation vary with technological forms? Also,

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from a comparative perspective, how typical or unique is Chinas exible governmentality relative to other controlled environments? angel adams parham Department of Sociology, Loyola University, Monroe Hall, Room 537, New Orleans, LA 70118, U.S.A. (aaparham@loyno.edu). 16 vii 05 Zhou has provided an insightful look at the world of outspoken unofcial or minjian Chinese writers. The boldness of the three writers he proles illuminates the potential of the Internet to facilitate new modes of political engagement in the face of a state resistant to citizens demands for increased civil and political rights. At the same time, he is careful to avoid being forced into the standard conceptual corners of democracy or civil society. He makes it clear that many prolic online writers do not buy into Western ideas of freedom and democracy, and he expresses a general hesitancy toward adopting a preconceived theoretical framework. While his caution in this regard is commendable, we lose something important when the rich discussion of minjian online writing is not brought into sustained dialogue with a specic body of theory. Zhou begins by gesturing toward several issues of theoretical interest, but in the remainder of the article he touches only lightly upon the theoretical foundations of concepts such as citizenship, governmentality, and agency. Of these several themes, that of minjian writers forging a new citizenship in the face of the Chinese governments exible governmentality comes through most clearly. It is never really clear, however, exactly what Zhou means by new citizenship, nor is it clear whether the desire for it is characteristic of many Chinese or conned to a few marginalized political writers. If the former is true, then we could ask what role minjian writers play in fostering or strengthening this desire in their readers. This would open up a discussion well-suited to engagement with theory on citizenship and social change. While it is certainly not helpful to graft a traditional Western model of citizenship onto the discussion of minjian writers, it is impossible to invoke the concept of citizenship without having readers call to mind their own preconceived ideas about what citizenship is or should be. Instead of leaving the eld open in this way, Zhou could have taken this opportunity to persuade readers that an anthropological approach to online political writing allows us to acquire a context-specic understanding of how citizenship is being renegotiated in China since the emergence of the Internet. One potential model for this kind of socially and culturally engaged analysis of citizenship and social change is found in the work of Bryan Turner (1990). In Outline of a Theory of Citizenship, Turner considers the historically and regionally specic development of different kinds of citizenship in an attempt to correct the Anglocentric approach to citizenship developed in the seminal work of T. H. Marshall. His careful attention to different cultural

contexts and his distinction between traditions of citizenship developed mainly from above by the state and those developed largely from below could prove useful for Zhous discussion. Examining the struggle between a Chinese state seeking to dene acceptable forms of managed citizenship from above and minjian writers insistence upon crafting a more engaged citizenship from below, Zhou could contribute more explicitly to theories of citizenship and social change while remaining faithful to the complexities and specicities of a China in transition. When considering the political signicance of online expression and the reworking of citizenship in China, it is important to consider how the increasingly transnational nature of politics reshapes the terrain on which both the citizen and the state work (see, e.g., Panagakos 1998, Schulz 1998, Karim 2003, Ong 2003). Zhou cites, for example, Ongs (2003) article on the transnational activism of overseas Chinese and their efforts to mobilize the state from abroad. How does access to transnational forums and alliances shape minjian writers effectiveness in crafting a new citizenship and shape or limit the Chinese states ability to respond with its techniques of exible governmentality? In sum, while Zhous analysis is exciting and timely, it would be helpful to see a more sustained discussion of new citizenship and exible governmentality in the context of existing theory on citizenship and the state. The case studies of minjian writers could help to illuminate the strengths and weaknesses of existing theoretical frameworks and point us toward a more socially and culturally engaged analysis of changing forms of citizenship in our increasingly Internet-mediated political world. ravi sundaram Sarai New Media Initiative, 29 Rajpur Rd., Delhi 110054, India (ravis@sarai.net). 9 viii 05 Chinas Internet life-world casts a strange comparative shadow on that of India. China has higher rates of Internet penetration, broadband usage, and computer ownership and a complex online cultural universe of millions of users. Politics, network culture, and state control are part of a constantly shifting governmental technology of dealing with the contemporary. By contrast, Indias Internet and broadband penetration is a fraction of Chinas and the online publics are closer to Western ones in the cultural politics of transmission. Though India has a dynamic technological culture, not all of it is online. Instead we have a junction of online and off-line spaces such as cybercafe s and public spaces that are subject to state paranoias about sexuality and national security. Issues of sexuality and censorship are often in the fuzzy realm of local police practice, while on issues of national security (terrorism) the state rhetoric is uncompromising. The Indian information-technology act denes transgressions of Indias sovereignty as paramount crimes wherever in the world they may occur. The prac-

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tice of enforcement has ranged from clumsy blocking of separatist/Pakistani web sites to prosecuting those accused of terrorism. I mention sovereignty because in the case of the minjian political writers this operates as a discursive space of intervention. In the case of Lu Jiaping and Ji Ans work, Chinas imaginative geography acts as a crucial reference point for reection on state actions and provides alternative knowledge production sites in the public domain. A combination of historical memory and growing economic condence produces a soi disant nationalist discourse whose slippery nature makes state managers nervous and complicates ground-level enforcement. This is the basis for the new citizenship produced by the minjian writers that Zhou alerts us to. By contrast, we see the gure of Anti, whose belief systems are liberal but whose practice is intolerant of nationalist dissenters in his bulletin-board forum. Zhou argues for a exible governmentality on the part of the Chinese state, with dissidents in a zone of zero tolerance (like that of the Indian state with regard to separatists) while a more exible policy operates with other groups. I would argue that what Zhou calls exible governmentality is in fact part of the political technology of all modern states, not just post-Internet China. States have historically set up a discursive space in which to generate a political technology of intervening in and producing a citizen population. Even colonial governmentality, which grafted liberal conceptions onto a despotic model of alien rule, produced a contradictory world of classication schemes and knowledges. In fact, the use of the classicatory architecture of governmentality may be limited in the study of Internet cultures, which constantly confound the classic practice of governmentality. In this sense Deleuzes (1992) critique of Foucault in his Postscript to the Societies of Control is dead right; the new technologies raise fundamental issues for the critical traditions of the twentieth century. As states like the Chinese scramble to deploy classic governmental techniques of calculation and classication along with sophisticated technological protocols for screening information, the dynamic, constantly shifting sensorium of the online world always exceeds itself. A minjian nationalist of today may become a dissident tomorrow, and so on. Zhou is right to caution us against the simple libertarian myth of the information revolution that opens democratic doors in authoritarian societies. This was not true of the world of print for many hundred years, and it is even less so of the Internet, which is used by a range of players including nationalists, fundamentalists, commercial scamsters, pornographers, and piratesplayers also found in the early world of print. The libertarian position on the Internet and democracy may well be too limited a position to argue against. That position died after September 11, with the generalization of info-war strategies by the United States and the use of the Internet for public executions by Islamic web sites. Though the blogger universe periodically provides stories for the libertarian vision, it is time to move ahead in the study of

Internet cultures. The big puzzle remains the material world of transmission and the voices of the Internet publics in countries like India and China. We hear little about off-line cultural politics which are Internet-related, the complex juncture between online writers and the local agencies of the state, and transgressions that fall outside politics such as pornography and piracy. Zhous article is a useful beginning for a discipline still in its early stages. nicolai volland Institute of Chinese Literature and Philosophy, Academia Sinica, 128 Academia Rd. Sec. 2, Nankang, Taipei 115, Taiwan (volland@sino.uni-heidelberg.de). 4 vii 05 Since the arrival of the cyber age in China less than a decade ago, Chinese Internet research has become a very active eld of enquiry, but both academic and journalistic commentators have focused almost exclusively on issues of control and censorship and on the question whether the Internet is going to change China. The most recent addition to this corpus of writing is Internet Filtering in China, 20042005, published by the OpenNet Initiative, a consortium of scholars from the University of Toronto, Harvard, and Cambridge (http://www. opennetinitiative.net/studies/china/). Yet while this report documents the Internet censorship and ltering efforts of the Chinese government in unprecedented detail, it is limited to a purely normative perspective. Only recently have scholars begun to explore the Chinese Internet from a user-centered perspective, taking seriously the agency of the individuals behind the often-quoted number of 80 million Internet users in the Peoples Republic of China. Several papers delivered at the recent Third Annual Chinese Internet Conference (http:// www.ssrn.com/update/lsn/lsnann/ann034.html) have attempted to venture beyond the control-versus-change paradigm, and so has Zhou: he is therefore at the forefront of a conceptual shift toward understanding of the Chinese Internet as a heterogeneous, polyphonic, and multidimensional cultural space. This makes his discussion of interest for comparative research by anthropologists, sociologists, and political scientists beyond the China eld. Zhou shows how the Internet has empowered a social segment that otherwise would have had no access to channels for articulation of its political views. The concept of minjian writers, however, remains somewhat elusive. Establishment intellectuals have a long tradition of dissent, and some of them have become minjian writers by being deprived of an ofcial voice through state repression (for example, Li Shenzhi). Writers from outside the ofcial-academic complex have risen to star status through Internet and book publications (Liu Xiaobo, Yu Jie), and the label minjian hardly applies to them any longer. At the same time, a minjian label can be unstable; Lu Jiaping is today considered a bona de dissident and perhaps should not be called a minjian

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writer at all. Finally, Zhou neglects the play of anonymity and multiple identities that the Internet allows: a well-known professor may write critical or even dissident articles under a pseudonym, thus creating a minjian identity for himself. While minjian is not convincing as an analytical category, however, Zhou is undoubtedly correct that the Internet has empowered large segments of the populace by giving them a voice and the power of meaning-making through alternative readings and interpretations. In a country where the government has defended its prerogative of dening meaning for decades, this in itself is no small feat. It seems unfortunate that Zhou does not push his argument farther. What is it that makes minjian writers move online? What are their discursive strategies? How do they interact with their readers, and how does Internet technology support these discussions? Finally, what are the elds that have attracted the most interest among minjian writers? The potentially dangerous waters of politics can be but the tip of the iceberg. The stunning thing about the Internet in China is that it has enabled unnamed individuals to take over large portions of public discourse that have formerly been closely controlled by the semiotic power of the party-state. It would be intriguing to see how these spaces have been transformed through minjian writing. Instead, Zhou has opted to return to the control-versus-change paradigm, and the ambiguity of his answer shows that other questions might have been more promising to explore. Finally, some methodological questions need to be addressed. Sampling of Internet case studies remains a question, as Zhou recognizes. Statistics on the Chinese Internet abound, and none of them are reliable. Zhou himself fails to quantify his assertion that the writers he discusses are widely read. More serious is the problem of documentation. The anthropological and sociological sciences have worked hard to establish rigid standards for the documentation of eldwork, observation, and interviews; similar standards for Internet research are still evolving. The minimum standard for Internet sources, however, should be proper quotation of name, source (URL), and access date. Quoting printouts will not do if a piece of research and the documentation it is based on are intended to remain veriable for decades to come. Since Internet web pages tend to disappear from their original addresses or may be modied, downloading and archiving them in a publicly accessible location will often be the only way to ensure that future generations of scholars will have the same hard evidence at their disposal as the scholar doing the original research. The Digital Archive of Chinese Studies, maintained at the University of Heidelberg (http://www.sino.uni-heidelberg. de/dachs/), is an attempt in this direction for the China subeld, allowing scholars to deposit the downloaded web sites used for documentation in their research. More consideration of these issues will certainly be needed as anthropological and sociological studies of the Internet expand.

zheng yongnian China Policy Institute, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK (yongnian.zheng@nottingham.ac.uk). 20 v 05 Scholars have debated the role that the Internet is playing and can play in generating the dynamics for political change in China. Given the fact that the arrival of a new type of information technology is frequently associated with political change, it is legitimate to explore the impact of this latest form of information technology on politics. Although it has been in our lives for only a few decades, its impact on politics has been highly visible. What requires investigation is the mechanisms by which it has led to political change. This is especially important in the case of China, where the regime remains authoritarian. Zhou suggests that the Internet can lead to political change in Chinas authoritarian political setting, arguing that the rise of online political writers signals the emergence of a desire on the part of Chinese society for a new citizenship and on the part of the state for a new mode of exible governmentality, that the availability of enormous amounts of outside information has promoted a new wave of anti-Western thinking and nationalism, and that online writers are contradictory and ambiguous. While accepting most of his observations, I would like to raise some questions for further discussion. First, minjian (unofcial) civil society is not new. It goes back to at least the late Qing Dynasty, when it became the fashion among urban citizens, at least in cities like Beijing, to discuss politics. From the late Qing through the Nationalist era to the recent reforms, there has always been a popular desire for citizenship. What is different now is not this desire but the presence of a new tool for expressing it. The Internet seems to make it more difcult, if not impossible, for the state to exercise total control. I am hesitant to align the minjian online writings with a new mode of exible governmentality. The regime leaves space for online political writers, but it is hard to judge whether it does so voluntarily or simply has to accept the fact. Needless to say, the regime is not ready to allow this group to exercise its limited citizenship. As Zhou recognizes, once a writer goes beyond the boundary established by the regime, he or she faces serious political risks. Internet arrests take place daily in China. It is, however, safe to say that the regime wants to utilize the Internet for more effective governance. It is true that human agencies are not just information recipients but interpreters, and I also believe (on the basis of my own eldwork in China) that it is increasingly difcult for the state to manipulate Chinese Internet users. Nonetheless, it is difcult to conclude that the more informed Chinese citizens are, the more nationalistic Chinese Internet writers become. The rise of Internet nationalism is a complicated phenomenon. The Internet is an effective tool for spreading nationalistic feelings among users, but the question is why nationalism and not other-isms. Apparently it has something

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to do with the states strategy (or art of government) in managing the Internet. For years the regime has exercised tight political and technological control over political discussions. Nationalism is among the few topics that Internet users can discuss in anything close to a free manner. Still, if Internet discussions go beyond the boundary, they are likely to be crushed. The latest wave of anti-Japan protests is an example. The Internet served as an effective tool in mobilizing these protests, but once the regime felt that such a nationalistic movement could endanger it, measures were immediately taken to control the situation. This is also what happens with respect to discussions of moral issues. Zhou correctly observes that minjian online writers are contradictory and ambiguous. In any free society, contradictions and ambiguities are a sign of pluralism. Actually, while nationalism is a popular topic for Chinese online political writers, other-isms are also discussed. Why does the Internet not give rise to Internet liberalism? Again, this has something to do with the regimes intervention. Without intervention, more balanced discussions could be achieved among different minjian online groups. We have seen that the regime has repeatedly shut down web sites that focus on political issues such as liberalism, the 1989 pro-democracy movement, and political reforms, but it rarely interferes with web sites on nationalism, a topic often regarded as patriotic. As Internet politics unfold in China, it will be a challenging intellectual enterprise to integrate this new phenomenon into our research, and it is to this enterprise that Zhous paper belongs.

Reply
zhou yongming Madison, Wisc., U.S.A. 15 viii 05 I am honored to have a group of commentators from a variety of disciplines offer me many insightful comments, criticisms, and suggestions. It is gratifying that most commentators agree with my main arguments. The anthropologist Constable uses a recent example to illustrate that, in the mainstream U.S. media, thinking of the Internet as a liberating and democratizing technology and of the current Chinese state as monolithic, unambiguously authoritarian, and repressive is alive and well, echoing my appeal for a more sophisticated understanding of the Internet in China. The cultural critic Sundaram situates his comments within a comparative framework and joins me in calling for a shift from the control-liberating focus to a more broadly dened study of Internet cultures. The seasoned media scholar Lee, while appreciating my efforts to examine the complexity, ambiguity, and contradiction of minjian political online writing, asks a series of thought-provoking questions that would enhance my discussions. All the com-

mentators have offered stimulating comments that would be helpful in deepening my arguments, and it is impossible to cover them all in this short reply. In what follows I will try to address the criticisms and suggestions that are mainly concerned with conceptual, theoretical, and methodological issues. A number of commentators consider the identity of the minjian writers somewhat elusive. The uidity and complexity of their identity in real life is certainly difcult to encompass within a single category. I could have discussed the origins and varied understandings of the four categories of Chinese intellectuals in more detail, as suggested by Constable. This would have helped readers, especially those who are not China specialists, to understand the unique position the minjian online writers occupy today. As I emphasized in the article, minjian identities are never clearly dened, are constantly being reworked, and have the potential of border-crossing at any time. That said, a working denition is needed to facilitate analysis. I tried to give a set of criteria for identifying a minjian writer, including nonofcial independent, marginalized, private, nonconformist, and nonprofessional. The three representatives I chose meet most of these criteria. The complexity of minjian identity also has to do with the fact that it may be presented and received in different contexts. For example, Lu Jiaping may present himself to and be received by Westerners more like a dissident but differently to and by the Chinese authorities and his online readers. This blurs the lines and requires esoteric readings, as mentioned by Lee. In addition, as Chuang reminds us, the complexity is compounded by the fact that minjian thinking is not totally independent from the ofcial line and sometimes overlaps with it, as illustrated in the nationalist stance toward Taiwan by both the state and two of the minjian writers (Lu and Ji). Finally, as Volland and Sundaram point out, the Internet has enabled a person to have multiple identities: a minjian nationalist of today could become a dissident tomorrow, and so on. All these factors make it a daunting task to come up with a clear-cut denition of minjian identity. Nevertheless, to make our discussion manageable, I would not go as far as Volland does in including gures such as Wang Xiaobo, Yu Jie, and Li Shenzhi. One criterion I should have emphasized more is that being called a minjian writer often refers to amateur as opposed to professional status. Having been educated abroad (Wang), having graduated from the elite university in China (Yu), or being a well-established intellectual (Li) disqualies one from being viewed as a minjian writer. While sometimes called minjian mainly for their nonconformist stance, such writers are more appropriately categorized as a unique sector of the Chinese intelligentsia. Several commentators have emphasized that precedents for minjian political writing can be found in Chinese history. Zheng traces the phenomenon to the late Qing, Lee compares current minjian writers to the preprofessionalized journalists and writers of early Republican China, and Kluver pushes the timeline even farther

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back. Historical consciousness is urgently needed in Internet studies, which have so far focused primarily on recent developments. I have made an effort to historicize online politics by studying the impacts on political participation in China of telegraphy in the late Qing and the Internet (Zhou 2005a). While these commentators focus on continuity, my concern is with the uniqueness of todays minjian online writings. It is true that minjian participation, in a broad sense, can be found throughout Chinese history, but compared with online political participation, it differs considerably in terms of degree, scale, and participants. Kluver uses the famous case of Liang Qichao of the late Qing to illustrate his point, but comparing the current online writers to would-be Liang Qichaos is off the mark. When Liang Qichao presented the reform petition to the Qing court in 1895, he and his followers were acting in a very different capacity from todays online minjian writers. As candidates for the highest level of civil service exams, they had already obtained an elite status that is beyond the reach of minjian online writers today. Sundaram, Lee, and Parham suggest that the concepts of exible governmentality and new citizenship need to be elaborated further, and I agree. Sundaram considers the former the political technology of all modern states, and Parham asks about the scope of new citizenship in China. Their concern might have been alleviated if I had provided a description of the context of contemporary China or, as Guo puts it, the unique political ecologies of posttotalitarian and transformative Chinese society. The terms in question are context-specic. It is in comparison with the totalitarian governance before the 1980s that the word exible gains special meaning. Similarly, it is the realization of many Chinese that independent thinking instead of following the party line unconditionally is their inalienable right that makes their understanding of citizenship new. In addition, ideally I would have discussed the historical development of governance technologies and the understanding of citizenship in prereform-era China and pointed out that even in that historical context governmentality and citizenship were not static entities but undergoing changes. I hope to include these descriptions in a more comprehensive study. We are dealing with a phenomenon that is still rapidly unfolding, what Lee calls a moving picture, and it will take a lot more effort and time before we can come up with a clearer impression of it. I am hesitant to apply any model to the new citizenship as Parham suggests because it is a context-specic case and may still be too uid and unclear to t into any such model. I hope that this study will be helpful for the development of a sound model for social analysis when the conditions are right. Kluver doubts the need to take minjian writers seriously because he sees them as posing no real challenge to party dominance and even implies that vanity plays big part in their motivation. Here we disagree. I have attempted to study not only the mainstream or elite intellectuals online, the group that has attracted most attention (see Zhou 2005a: 15580), but also the often

marginalized or neglected group that is engaged in active writing and discussion in numerous bulletin-board forums, webzines, and blogsvirtual communities that Kluver fails to acknowledge. We are still witnessing the very beginning of a transformation and are in no position to dismiss the minjian online writers or any other group. This is why I propose more in-depth case studies to help us grasp the whole picture and lay a solid foundation for judgments. Any rush to make sweeping predictions will only produce more of the supercial and political fortune-telling type of research that we often encounter in contemporary China studies. Zheng asks a very important question: Why does the Internet not give rise to Internet liberalism? While he is right that nationalistic discussions among minjian online writers are only one of the isms discussed online, I think he puts too much emphasis on the interference or manipulation of the state in preventing more balanced discussions. The current prevalence of nationalism is the result of many factors, among which the role of the state may be smaller than is commonly thought. A case in point is the overseas mainland Chinese community. While most of these Chinese have access to information and are free of the Chinese states intervention, there is no evidence that liberalism is more popular than nationalism among them. Though more systematic researches are required, it is encouraging that sociologists and anthropologists have touched on this issue recently. In 2003 and 2004, the anthropologist Vanessa Fong conducted research among Chinese young adults studying in Australia, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. She found that, despite their daily exposure to the perspectives of the NATO countries in the media and everyday life, everyone with whom she discussed the 1999 bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade favored a nationalistic Chinese perspective (Fong 2004). The sociologist Dingxin Zhao conducted a survey of over 1,200 elite university students in Beijing and found little correlation between exposure to Western media sources and the degree of anger they felt about the embassy bombing (Zhao 2002). It is in this sense that I call contemporary Chinese nationalism an informed nationalism and believe that the Chinese nationalists should not be viewed as merely products or victims of state manipulation and that their human agency should be recognized (see Zhou 2005b). A number of methodological issues have been raised concerning the new domain of research related to cyberspace. I was never able to meet with Ji An in person, and Constable, one of the rst anthropologists to have conducted virtual ethnographic research, expresses concern about the lack of off-line conrmation in this case. While conducting eldwork both online and offline is desirable, given the nature of cyberspace it is beyond the grasp of researchers to meet person-to-person with every virtual subject in the real world. The inclusion of Ji in my study reects the new challenge we face in conducting cyber-eldwork, and sometimes the imperfectness of cyber (or all) eldwork has to be acknowledged. Once again, I propose to handle the issue on a

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case-specic basis. In this case, the importance of knowing Ji is less because there are plenty of his writings available online and the focus of the study is textual analysis. Knowing a writers life is helpful in appreciating the texts that writer produces but can never be a decisive factor. The situation would be different if the research focus were the participation of an online writer in a social movement. Finding and interpreting materials both on- and off-line will be a challenge for all eldworkers in cyberspace. Volland suggests that to ensure the representativeness of case studies it would be better to use quantitative methods, although he acknowledges that at present none of the statistics on the Chinese Internet are reliable. While I examined many more minjian writers during my eldwork, I discussed only three of them for the reasons given in my article. Quantitative research is something anthropologists should learn from other disciplines, and we will welcome well-grounded quantitative research on the Internet, given that Internet research has been interdisciplinary from the beginning. Another issue is the documentation of Internet-related research. The high turnover rate of web sites and the constant deletion of les poses a serious problem for researchers. I enthusiastically endorse Vollands suggestion that specic digital archives be maintained for scholarly use. Only through collective efforts in handling the challenges posed by cyberspace can the burgeoning eld of Internet studies ourish and make its rightful contribution to the social analysis of the contemporary world.

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