"The Internet Will Topple the Party."
Nope. Bill Clinton famously remarked a decade ago that the efforts of Chinese leaders to control the Internet were doomed, akin to "nailing Jell-O to a wall." It turns out the former president was right, but not in the way he thought. Far from being a conveyor belt for Western democratic values, the Internet in China has largely done the opposite. The "Great Firewall" works well in keeping out or at least filtering Western ideas. Behind the firewall, however, hypernationalist netizens have a much freer hand.
The Chinese Communist Party has always draped itself in the cloak of nationalism to secure popular support and played up the powerful narrative of China's historical humiliation by the West. Even run-of-the-mill foreign-investment proposals are sometimes compared to the "Eight Allied Armies" that invaded and occupied Beijing in 1900. But when such views bubble up on the Internet, the government often skillfully manages to channel them to its own ends, as when Beijing used an online outburst of anti-Japanese sentiment to pressure Tokyo after a Chinese fishing-boat captain was arrested in Japanese waters. Such bullying tactics may not help China's image abroad, but they have reinforced support at home for the party, which the state media is keen to portray as standing up to foreign powers.
Through its Propaganda Department, the party uses a variety of often creative tactics to ensure that its voice dominates the web. Not only does each locality have its own specially trained Internet police to keep a lid on grassroots disturbances, the department has also overseen a system for granting small cash payments to netizens who post pro-government comments on Internet bulletin boards and discussion groups. Moreover, the dominant national Internet portals know that their profitable business models depend on keeping subversive content off their sites. If they consistently flout the rules, they can simply be shut down.