Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Questions for the Expert

As I've been conducting my research on China's use of technology, I came across an individual whose area of expertise supports well my area of interest. John Tkacik Jr. is a former U.S. Diplomat specializing in foreign policy and relations with China. Under the Clinton adminstration, Mr. Tkacik served as the Chief of China Intelligence in the U.S. Department of State. Now retired from active positions in diplomacy, he is a Research Fellow for The Heritage Foundation, and his article "China's Orwellian Internet" has already played integral roles in earlier posts.

The article "China's Orwellian Internet", however, was written in 2004. Hoping to hear Mr. Tkacik's opinion on more recent issues, I sent the following e-mail this afternoon:

Mr. Tkacik,

Like you, I have had the opportunity to spend a portion of my life in Asia; I lived in Taiwan for nearly 18 months and entertain thoughts for a future life on the mainland. Though your experience dwarfs that of my own, I, too, understand and appreciate the distinctive nuances of the Chinese people. I have since returned, an am currently completing my undergraduate studies in English at Brigham Young University.

It was my experience in Asia which has cultivated my current interest in the diverse issues facing both China and Taiwan. Since my return from Asia six months ago, I have engaged myself in amateur research examining China's state policies through the interpretive lenses of George Orwell's text, 1984. Specifically, I am exploring the paradoxical images associated with the Internet; human rights optimists rally behind the Internet as a weapon to attack Communism's totalitarian rule, while others realize the manipulative grip the government exercises over this digitalized method of expression as it would any other. The underlying thesis of my research is to explore the role the Internet plays against the predictions made by Orwell himself: does the advent of new technology reason an incarnation of Orwell's totalitarian state as impossible or inevitable?

It should come as little surprise that my research brought me to your door. I recently discovered your article "China's Orwellian Internet" and in your arguments found evidence to support my own. Like you, I am forced to see the Internet as another method to secure government power. Though I can empathize with those who optimistically hope the Internet will provide an avenue of free speech, my research has repeatedly proven otherwise. Referring again to your article "China's Orwellian Internet," I was particularly impressed with your numerous accounts of those individuals found on the wrong side of government favor; I have continued researching similar veins and have been particularly impressed by the government response to, as Orwell would say, thought criminals, such as Gao Zhisheng and Liu Xiaobo.

Your time, I understand, is extremely valuable; I would not want to take away from projects of larger importance. However, as your time allows, I would be very interested to hear further thoughts on the role Internet is playing in China. Do you still see it as a machine hurdling the government toward the totalitarian regime predicted by Orwell, or do you think it has already arrived? Or, contrastingly, it is really the beacon of free speech and free though so many wish it to be?

As a final thought, I have included a substantial portion of "China's Orwellian Internet" on a blog designed solely for recording my research. If you feel so inclined, it may be read under the post Thoughtcrime on the Internet on my blog New Experimentation.

Again, Mr. Tkacik, I thank you for your time and, if available, hope to hear further your thoughts on the state of affairs in China.

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