For tens of millions of Chinese, a new era has begun. As of last Friday, everyone over the age of 30 must now set up Internet accounts. Anyone older has no excuse.
The massive change is significant because it heralds an economic reorientation, a huge cultural shift, and may signal a tighter rein by the state and private businesses on society. But it also underscores the world’s largest country is soon to become the world’s last on the globe without a formal trading treaty.
Over the past few decades, Chinese regulators have gradually enacted what has been called the Great Firewall of China, hampering websites and social media while modernizing the legal, business, and security systems. Businesses were encouraged to distance themselves from consumers and stake out distribution rights; to protect intellectual property, manipulate lists of products and type them into local dialect; and to close their wallets to political dissidents.
The massive changes being seen now are rooted in the Chinese government’s efforts to, among other things, modernize its economy by slowing the rate of economic growth, taxing wealth, and ensuring the smooth running of one of the world’s largest conglomerates.