I was a little surprised when I read this but not a lot….”China bans cyber cafes for a year”, (06 March , 2007, Reuters):
“Fearful of soaring Internet addiction and juvenile crime, China has banned the opening of new Internet cafes this year, state media reported on Tuesday.
“In 2007, local governments must not sanction the opening of new Internet bars,” Xinhua news agency on Tuesday quoted a directive jointly released by 14 government departments, including the Ministry of Culture, as saying.
There are currently about 113,000 Internet cafes and bars in China, Xinhua said, citing the Ministry of Information Industry.
The notice comes as lawmakers at China’s annual session of parliament, the National People’s Congress, called for stricter regulations to keep teenagers away from Internet cafes, which are often seen in China as hotbeds of juvenile crime.
“It is common to see students from primary and middle schools lingering in Internet bars overnight, puffing on cigarettes and engrossed in online games,” Xinhua quoted NPC
Last year, a report from the China National Children’s Centre, a government think-tank, said that 13 per cent of China’s 18 million Internet users under 18 were Internet addicts.”
(Also at China bans new internet cafes)
Although the report says that the ban is aimed more at curbing addiction to online games (and internet addiction in general), I suspect the truth is little more complex and there is more to it than appears at first glance.
This move goes to the heart of why China may loose some of its competitive edge in the long term (over several years, possibly decades)…I have written before on how democracy, diversity and the freedom to openly debate/ argue/ discuss ideas is one of the core strengths that India has - thanks to its long democratic tradition* …and it may yet prove to be the winning card in the now boringly familiar debate around India vs. China. see e.g. this post (personally, I dont see this as a zero-sum game).
Coming back to the ban though – what exactly is the government trying to accomplish?
I am looking forward to comments from my Chinese readers and those familiar with China.
P.S. In case you thought that curbs on “harmless” freedoms (such as surfing the net/ online gaming) are limited to online activities, think again….according to an Associated Press report:
“…some 170 Chinese cities limit or ban motorcycle use or ownership, largely because they are viewed as underpowered, cheap, polluting machines that clog traffic and endanger others.” and apparently..
“Motorcycles have been banned from almost all the main streets in Shanghai, Huang said, and the city stopped accepting (new) motorcycle registrations in 2002.”
* As an aside, the democratic tradition in India goes back over a millenia and is not just a result of Britain’s colonial legacy as is commonly believed.