“Bill Gates was not nurtured in an Internet cafe in China”
So says a Chinese professor when discussing the educational experiences of Chinese youth in Internet cafes. A recent controversy surrounding the strict regulation of Internet cafes, played out over the past 6 months in the small town of Fangshan in Shanxi province, reveals the very real concerns of parents, educators, businesspeople, and bureaucrats about what the Internet is for, who should be able to access it, and who will profit financially from it.
Thanks to Roland Soong at ESWN for translating a long article on the Fangshan situation. In Fangshan, a town of less than 30,000 people, a rash of illegally operating Internet cafes were shut down with an "iron fist" by the local country secretary, prompting national media coverage. The clampdown was driven by issues of illegal operation, inappropriate targeting of minors (the vast majority of users are under 18), and what sounds like basic disturbance of the peace as local officials were repeatedly called in by parents who wanted to find a way to keep their children from playing games rather than studying. From the ESWN translation:
The city encourages green [Note: green here means morally healthy] Internet centers in the streets. The libraries in Wuxi city are doing that. We feel that we have to provide outlets for the children to go to," said Wuxi city deputy mayor Zhou Jiaqing. "Adults and young people should have strictly segregated areas of Internet access," said professor Ling Yun…
"The children should get on the Internet cafes organized by specially designated organizations instead of purely commercial operations, because this affects our next generation."
Professor Ling Yun recommends: "First, the schools ought to prove the venues. Then the cultural and especially the education departments ought to assume the responsibility, such as seriously managing the Internet
cafes. The adults can go to the commercial Internet cafes. That will be easier to manage."