Open Networks, Closed Regimes: The Impact of the Internet on Authoritarian Rule / Edition 1

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As the Internet diffuses across the globe, many have come to believe that the technology poses an insurmountable threat to authoritarian rule. Grounded in the Internet's early libertarian culture and predicated on anecdotes pulled from diverse political climates, this conventional wisdom has informed the views of policymakers, business leaders, and media pundits alike. Yet few studies have sought to systematically analyze the exact ways in which Internet use may lay the basis for political change.

In O pen Networks, Closed Regimes, the authors take a comprehensive look at how a broad range of societal and political actors in eight authoritarian and semi-authoritarian countries employ the Internet. Based on methodical assessment of evidence from these cases —China, Cuba, Singapore, Vietnam, Burma, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt —the study contends that the Internet is not necessarily a threat to authoritarian regimes.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"[A] fascinating and extremely useful new book..." —Nicholas Thompson, New America Foundation, Washington Monthly, 1/1/2003

Foreign Affairs
It is said that the Internet promotes democracy in authoritarian states. This book reports more mixed findings.

The Internet can indeed frustrate state rule, but authoritarian regimes can also control virtual content to promote state-defined interests. Based on case studies, this book explores the Internet's impact on civil society, economic openness, and ties among transnational human rights and democracy groups. China is a particularly illuminating example. Committed to economic liberalization, Beijing has promoted the Internet while attempting to control its political impact by filtering and monitoring content and encouraging self-censorship. In some instances, the regime sees the Internet as a tool to fight corruption and promote local reform and development of poor areas. In contrast, Cuba has rejected this approach in favor of strengthening government control. Other authoritarian states have looked to Singapore as they try to balance a corruption-free and technology-friendly society with political and social controls. The authors do not offer an argument about the sources of change in authoritarian regimes, but their cases suggest that the Internet's role will be indirect and long term.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780870031946
  • Publisher: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Publication date: 1/1/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.78 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 0.51 (d)

Meet the Author

Shanthi Kalathil is associate in the Information Revolution and World Politics Project at the Carnegie Endowment. A former Hong Kong-based journalist, she has written extensively on Asian politics in the information age. Taylor C. Boas is pursuing a Ph.D. in political science at the University of California, Berkeley. Previously he worked at the Carnegie Endowment in the Information Revolution and World Politics Project.

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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 The Conventional Wisdom: What Lies Beneath? 1
Ch. 2 Wired for Modernization in China 13
Ch. 3 Channeling a "Limited" Resource in China 43
Ch. 4 Catching Up and Cracking Down in Singapore, Vietnam, and Burma 70
Ch. 5 Technology and Tradition in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt 103
Ch. 6 Beyond Blind Optimism 135
Notes 155
Glossary 179
Works Cited 183
Index 201
About the Authors 217
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace 218
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