We ran a story yesterday on the government's closure of the only pro-democracy Web site based in China. The closure was roundly condemned by many human rights organisations but they all of knew their complaints would have no effect on the policy, either now or in the future.
Following the story and seeing the opportunity, people in the Chinese media started leaking information to the West over what was going on in the online world. And never one to shy from declaring its intention, the Chinese government robustly defended its stance, warning of "enemy forces at home and abroad that are sparing no effort to use this battle front to infiltrate us".
A very special case
When Chris Patten set off to become Governor of Hong Kong before the final handover to China, he declared his intended abrasive approach to other high-ranking Conservative politicians. Michael Heseltine went mental. "What you have to understand Chris," he was reported to say, "is that the Chinese are a very special case."
And so they are.
But before you write the Chinese off as a bunch of lunatics, consider this other nugget of news. The Community of Science in Beijing has announced the "first-ever" Web portal for scientific research and funding. The aim is to start an open dialogue between researchers throughout the world.
Huntington Williams III, chairman of Community of Science, had this to say: "COS believes strongly that international collaboration will advance scientific discovery and understanding. The Internet accelerates this discovery process, and COS China will play a strategic role by facilitating direct communication and co-operation between Western and Eastern scholars."
Where does this project - which, in appearance, is superior to the many mini and fought-over academic networks in the West - fit in with the appalling treatment meted out to those who have the audacity to disagree with the government?
Rarely has China's contrasts been so apparent than its dealings with the Net. ®