In China, Net Guru Praises “Disrespect for Authority”

During his visit to China, Internet pundit and MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte said on Friday that a “healthy disrespect for authority” was compatible with development of the Internet industry.

According Reuters, Negroponte said in a speech on digital societies that disrespect for authority was “. . .very compatible with the Internet bottoms-up view of the world.”

To become a digital society, China would have to adopt similar attitudes, he said.

Negroponte predicted that there would be 10 million Internet users in China by the end of 2000, but that Asian growth would be slower than other parts of the world. He did indicate that China was more open than its neighbors South Korea and Japan.

The Web guru made his speech at an event hosted by one of China’s major portals, Sohu (formerly known as “Sohoo”).

During his three day trip to China, Negroponte met with Chinese government officials, local infopreneurs and academic researchers, and was profiled by domestic television and print media.

Before the event, Sohu CEO Charles Zhang commented, “Two years ago, Nicholas Negroponte visited China for the first time as one of Sohu’s earliest shareholders.”

“Since then, [China’s] Internet has experienced tremendous growth and, as a result of his involvement, Sohu has evolved into Mainland China’s most popular Web destination.”

Sohu’s International Communications Officer, Kristie Lu Stout, told Asia.InternetNews that Negroponte’s speech was taken out of context.

Lu Stout pointed out that the professor’s most significant conclusion was that China would become a more digital culture because of the emphasis placed on the family in China and the decreasing cost of computing in China.

Nevertheless, Negropontes’ “disrespect for authority” comment is unlikely to please the Beijing leadership, which has recently been cracking down on dissent, some of it Web based.

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