From the New York Times Magazine:
When I spoke to Kai-Fu Lee in Google’s Beijing offices, there were moments that to me felt jarring. One minute he sounded like a freedom-loving Googler, arguing that the Internet inherently empowers its users. But the next minute he sounded more like Jack Ma of Alibaba — insisting that the Chinese have no interest in rocking the boat. It is a circular logic I encountered again and again while talking to China’s Internet executives: we don’t feel bad about filtering political results because our users aren’t looking for that stuff anyway.
They may be right about their users’ behavior. But you could just as easily argue that their users are incurious because they’re cowed. Who would openly search for illegal content in a public Internet cafe — or even at home, since the government requires that every person with personal Internet access register his name and phone number with the government for tracking purposes? It is also possible that the government’s crackdown on the Internet could become more intense if the country’s huge population of poor farmers begins agitating online. The government is reasonably tolerant of well-educated professionals online. But the farmers, upset about corrupt local officials, are serious activists, and they pose a real threat to Beijing; they staged 70,000 demonstrations in 2004, many of which the government violently suppressed.