The technology has a long way to go

Veteran China watcher Rebecca MacKinnon both acknowledges the power of the internet in the Communist nation but also its profound limitations:

A new form of highly networked authoritarianism is emerging in China. Call it “Cybertarianism.” It’s not uniquely Chinese, but understanding how the Internet is mediating the relationship between state and society in China can help us understand what’s happening around the world…

At the same time, in the cybertarian state as in the classic authoritarian state, there is no real protection of the individual’s right to freedom of expression. People still go to jail when the powers that be decide they are too much of a threat – and there’s nothing anybody can do about it. It’s not possible to organize an opposition party. There are no genuinely democratic mechanisms for citizens to elect a representative government. The courts are not independent of the ruling party.