The Internet Facilitates Social Mobility

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Information Revolution
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In the 12 years since its introduction in 1998, the internet has been the new imperial examination.

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<p>Basically, my story is almost driven by the internet. The internet has turned me from a programmer into a journalist and commentator. My story may rarely happen in other countries. I, a person from a computer sciences background, was just publishing articles online, and now I have become a journalist and professional columnist. Since 1998, the internet economy has provided a great opportunity for local young and potential elites. It has secured the mobility of the society in a way similar to the former imperial examination. Any person, even a poor kid from the country side, would have the opportunity to be interviewed by the Emperor so long as they could pass the imperial examination. And then, they could very possibly be sent to another province to be the Governor. Social mobility is one of the reasons why the feudal system was able to persist, with such stability, for such a long time. In this way, young, local elites can become national elites through relatively fair means. So, the whole group of social elites had a sense of solidarity and hope. However, the system was abolished at the beginning of last century by the Qing Dynasty. Several years after came the revolution. Why? Because those revolutionaries were basically those people who would have been able to become officers, but the channel to becoming an officer had been cut off. In this way, they had no other choice than to become revolutionaries. So, a lot of people, myself included, wondered how the revolution could have come so fast. I think there is a cause effect relationship between the abolition of imperial examination and the revolution. Why did the Cultural Revolution end so quickly and cleanly? It had to do with the <em>Shang Shan Xia Xiang</em>, the down to the country side movement. When it was implemented in 1968, students lost the opportunity to go to school, they were all sent to the countryside. Once social mobility was cut off, society felt no close, personal benefit from the regime. So, I've always believed that if a society can maintain a relatively fair system that takes in local elites and makes them into regional and national elites, no matter what issues may arise, that society will persist. The Internet has achieved this function. Because of the internet, a local &quot;nobody&quot; can, in an instant, be brought by a company or the media to big cities like Guangzhou, or Shanghai, or Beijing, just because their blog or their website proves your ability. A lot of my internet friends have come to Beijing to become media members. So, the media's transformation into a mode for local elites to come to the cities has created a new version of this imperial examination. This transformation has maintained the limited social mobility of this nation. Of course, this social mobility is being slowly destroyed by factors such as house prices. You simply cannot afford a decent house and life anymore. So, in this way, people are being prevented from becoming elites. Even more people will leave Beijing, but let's not talk about the future. In the past 30 years, especially in the 12 years since its introduction in 1998, the internet has been the new imperial examination. It has relatively fairly turned local nobodies into household names with decent lives and even decent apartments.</p>
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Michael Anti explains how the internet has replaced the imperial examination as the primary means of social mobility in Chinese society. He talks about his own story and how, through blogging and publishing articles online, he was able to go, relatively easily, from being a programmer to a nationally recognized journalist and commentator.