The vast majority of China's internet users want to be free to discuss and read about politics online, but also believe that people should be protected from pornographic and violent content, according to a recent survey funded by a US foundation.
Only eight per cent of Chinese surfers believe that political content should be controlled, down from 12 per cent in 2003. However, 73 per cent want restrictions on violence, and 85 per cent on pornography.
"Based on its open technology, the internet is having a profound impact on China's relatively closed traditions, culture and political system," said the survey, which was supervised by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and funded by the Markle Foundation, a privately-funded US think-tank.
Compared to citizens in other countries, Chinese people are unusually optimistic about the political benefits of the internet, the report found.
Sixty per cent of respondents believe that "higher-level officials will better understand the common people's views through the internet", and more than half thought that the internet gave people more opportunities to criticise government policy.
Although Chinese surfers are optimistic that the internet will "have a positive effect on political transparency", the vast majority do not use government websites.
Compared with research in several other countries, the report pointed out, " only Chinese subjects responded positively about the political role of the internet".
"The number one purpose of going online is to read the news," the report stated, with domestic, international and social news all being read by roughly half of net users. The report noted that the most frequently accessed news category is entertainment, read by 65 per cent.
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