While China has enjoyed a remarkable economic growth spurt in recent years, even the most sympathetic Western observers must admit that Beijing has set itself a formidable challenge: to maintain a tightly controlled economy, press, and culture while giving China's citizens sufficient education and global connectivity to remain competitive in world markets. Riots at Foxconn – a technology manufacturing plant heavily used by Apple, corruption scandals at the highest levels of government, frequent rebellions of rural workers, and ongoing battles with outspoken critics like artist/activist Ai Weiwei have revealed Beijing as a leadership in an increasingly untenable position – increasingly threatened by the glimmer of freedom it has allowed its people.
The internet plays a powerful role in these tensions. In spite of the "Great Firewall" – the Chinese government's ongoing attempts at internet control, millions of people have hacked their way through, making internet policing an increasingly expensive, even ludicrous proposition. This is collective intelligence in action – the coming together of millions of citizens to take the freedom of expression their government refuses them.