Even as the authorities crack down on Internet dissent, they're negotiating with WebTV to import 1 million units to a country short on personal computers. But don't expect China's mostly middle-class netizens to bring any walls tumbling down. "Fear of social chaos limits the extent to which even many government critics will push the authorities," says Ramo. Because they'd have as much to lose as the authorities if China's newly jobless millions vent their anger on the streets.
Information wants to be free? In China it'll have to take a number and stand in line. A Shanghai court on Friday heard the case of Lin Hai, charged with providing the e-mail addresses of 30,000 users of his ISP to a dissident magazine in the U.S. While things look bad for Lin, in the long run China is in a no-win situation. "They need the Internet as much as they fear it," says TIME world editor Joshua Cooper Ramo. "It's essential to help them achieve the economic growth levels necessary to stave off social unrest, and yet it's inherently uncontrollable."