If simply keeping up on the virtual world weren't enough, there's the real world as well! Here's a quick update on a couple of recent/ongoing important meetings shaping the future of Virtual China:
The first ever Internet Governance Forum (IGF), defined by Wikipedia as "a global venue under the auspices of the United Nations, established to accommodate multi – stakeholder policy dialogue in the field of internet governance. It purports to bring together all stakeholders in the internet governance debate, whether they represent states, the private sector or civil society, on an equal basis and through an open and inclusive process."
Over 1500 attendees representing governments, companies, organisations and themselves are attending the 4 day meeting in Athens, running from October 30 through November 2. At the IGF website there are instructions for accessing the live video stream from the conference, participating in chat rooms, and even texting in questions to specific panels (but only in English, Spanish, or French). It also tells you what sessions are happening in real-time.
The IGF helpfully provides highlights of panels, such as this morning's panel on Openness, at which "A Chinese government representative from the audience (who insisted that he had no problems accessing the BBC Web site from his office in Geneva), insisted with a straight face that there were no restrictions on access to Internet content in China, provoking derisive laughter from the audience."
Also check out the BBC's excellent Reporters Log from the IGF.
Second, there was the high-powered Chinese Bloggers Conference 2006 (or, CnBloggerCon), which took place in Hangzhou over the weekend of October 28 and 29. The conference blog (in Chinese) includes downloadable presentations on Internet Trust (by Dr. Cheng Lihua, psychologist, Zhongshan University) and on the Internet, Blogging, and the Creative Spirit (by Fang Xingdong, head of blogging service Bokee.com, also with Chinalabs.com and Beijing Normal University).
Partners Deb Fallows at the Pew Internet & American Life Project, Berkeley School of Journalism, and Professor Ashley Esarey, Political Science, Middlebury, launched their online survey of Chinese bloggers, which will give us Pew-quality data on the Chinese blogging population.
The people in this room are not socially disruptive revolutionaries. They are people who would like to get on with the business of finding ways to use the Internet to improve people's lives. To the extent that politics won't prevent them from doing so, they would prefer not to be involved with politics.
...If one extrapolates China's future from this group of individuals, you see a peace-loving, compassionate, humanistic, globally minded, flexible, hard-working lot who are well poised to drive Chinese innovation.... and to drive it in directions that the entire world should certainly welcome. The Chinese government would be crazy not to embrace them as poster kids for China's future. If the government is not capable of doing so, it will be to the long-term detriment not only of China's economy but also of China's global credibility, which in turn has an impact on China's long-term global influence.
Rebecca also blogs IT guru Keso's keynote speech, which is very helpful for those of us who were not there!