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Monday, 21 August, 2000, 17:32 GMT 18:32 UK
Jiang backs China's net growth
Police surf the net
Authorities remain suspicious of the web's capabilities
The Chinese President Jiang Zemin has given his enthusiastic support to the development of the internet in China.

Speaking to an international computer conference on Monday, Mr Jiang said e-mail, e-commerce and distance learning via the internet would transform the country.


The melding of the traditional economy and information technology will provide the engine for the development of the economy and society in the 21st century

Jiang Zemin
"We should deeply recognise the tremendous power of information technology and vigorously promote its development," he told delegates.

The president's comments, reported by the state news agency Xinhua, are being seen as an indication that China recognises the power of the internet despite government fears that the unrestricted spread of ideas could undermine its leadership.

'Engine for development'

"The melding of the traditional economy and information technology will provide the engine for the development of the economy and society in the 21st century," Mr Jiang said in his address.

E-business
E-commerce is making an impact in China's cities
However, he warned that the spread of the internet could bring with it what he called "a flood of trash".

"The internet also brings problems that make people uneasy: anti-science, false science and information that is unhealthy to the point of being downright harmful," he said in a veiled reference to the government's efforts at controlling the use of the web by opposition groups.

He added that the government supported the creation of an "international internet pact", designed to strengthen what he called "the safe management of information [and] to give free rein to the positive uses of the internet."

Access denied

Laptop advert
Access to technology is expected to grow fast in the coming months
According to official figures internet usage has nearly doubled in China since the beginning of the year, to nearly 17 million and analysts say they expect this figure to rise dramatically in the coming months.

However, official attitudes towards the web remain highly suspicious.

Access to the websites of western news organisations, human rights groups and other sources deemed politically undesirable is routinely blocked by the authorities.

On Monday it emerged that a high school teacher in Sichuan province had been arrested for allegedly posting articles critical of the communist leadership on the internet.

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See also:

09 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
China to battle internet 'enemies'
08 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
China shuts dissident website
29 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
Can governments control the internet?
02 Feb 00 | Asia-Pacific
China cracks down on internet cafes
19 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
Online boom for China
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