A Critical Review of the Development of Chinese e-Government

Junhua ZHANG

Perspectives, Vol. 3, No. 7

"All around the world e-government is revolutionizing our understanding of how government works and the quality of what it can deliver to people. This is happening because the Internet has changed the way organizations, communities and individuals learn, work and interact."[1]

In the wake of globalization, more and more governments, regardless of their political systems, have come to realize the necessity and importance of modernization in order to meet increasing requirements of global competitiveness. Electronic government ("e-government") is one of the modernization efforts undertaken by many countries. This article will examine the Chinese version of e-government by addressing three aspects. First: What is the Chinese understanding of e-government? Second: What has the Chinese government done to set up a digitalized government? Third: How to assess China's e-government?

1. The Chinese Understanding of an E-Government

It is difficult to find a universal definition of "e-government," since the content of an e-government is closely related to the political system of different countries. However, there is a certain consensus among Western democracies as to the core elements of an e-government. The debate over this issue in the USA and Great Britain[2] have defined the functions of e-government to include at least the following:

a. to promote democratic participation by providing citizens with more digital connections, such as e-mail, and simplifying the procedure of democratic elections by, for example, e-voting.
b. to deliver government services to the citizens without any restriction of time and space by bringing governmental information online.
c. to make administrative work more transparent and efficient by networking government departments and introducing intranets and so on.
d. to boost the e-economy, especially government-to-business ("G to B"), government-to-business-to-customer ("G to B to C") or government-to-customer ("G to C"), by networking government agencies with non-governmental organizations and individuals.

Obviously, the first point is emphasized the most in Western countries, where there is already an institutionalized democracy. Even in those countries e-voting still remains an ideal.[3] Nevertheless, bar that first point, this definition of e-government fits well with the Chinese understanding of e-government.[4]

1.1. The Driving Force Behind the "Leap-Frog Development"

The Chinese leadership has shown great enthusiasm for the information technology as part of their zeal for modernization. Curiously enough, this enthusiasm was inspired not by Marxist mentors but by an American futurist, Albert Toffler. As early as the 1980's, Toffler's work had already become standard reading for the politburo.[5] In his book The Third Wave, Toffler takes the view that some developing countries need not repeat the development process of the industrial countries. Instead, developing countries can catch up by massive introduction of high tech, especially information technology. Based on this notion, Deng Xiaoping emphasized repeatedly "telecommunication is the starting point of economic development".[6] His successor Jiang Zemin, once the minister of electronics industry, has shown even more interest in this area. In an interview with TIME Magazine in 1998, Jiang Zemin revealed that he had a PC at his Zhongnanhai home and used it to log onto foreign websites. Top officials insist that he is committed to a wired China, fully aware that the country's future depends on economic growth, which in turn relies on modern technology.[7] Two significant plans drawn up during Deng's and Jiang's era, the "863 Plan" and the "909 Project"[8], indicate the ambition of the Chinese leadership in creating China's own IT industry.

There are two trends in the development of China's IT. First, China's leadership is firmly convinced that an economic leap-frog can be achieved through the development of IT -indeed, it overemphasizes the impact of IT on the economy.[9] Secondly, China's development strategy is very much American influenced. Regarding the e-government as an integrated part of the new economy, the Chinese government's positive attitude toward IT played a significant role in shaping the concept of e-government. China hoped that computerizing and networking the administration would provide a new impetus to China's economy, especially in the field of e-commerce. This optimism is often expressed in speeches made by top leaders at various conferences on e-government. Furthermore, the special status of the e-economy within the conception of e-government is revealed by the following Shandong provincial government's list of the functions of e-government:

"The use of e-government can be displayed in the following points: 1) e-commerce; 2) e-procurement; 3) e-payment for social welfare recipients and the respective government departments; 4) e-communication between the government departments; 5) databases; 6) e-documents; 7) e-taxation; 8) digital confirmation of personal identity cards."[10]

1.2 Strengthening Surveillance and Governability of the Central Government

The preference for e-economy and IT in creating an e-government does not imply that the Chinese government is unaware of the socio-political implications of e-government. On the contrary, the emergence of e-government provides the government with more possibilities to strengthen their control over public servants. In his book The Nation-State and Violence, Anthony Giddens highlights the importance of surveillance (in terms of control over public servants and their work) in the modern bureaucracy, which is warranted through efficient information flow to the authorities.[11] Chinese leadership needs such surveillance more than ever. The ambiguity of policies and laws and the existence of many under-regulated market niches have nourished massive graft and embezzlement. The Chinese authorities recognize that corruption threatens to undermine the government's legitimacy. Surveillance thus becomes important not only to counteract the effects of decentralization of power, but also to cut back the spreading graft and inefficiency at ministerial as well as at local administrative levels.

In addition, the central government shows more and more interest in setting up a digitalized public procurement system. Currently, China does not have a law of public procurement. Many of G to G, B to G and G to B activities are conducted through a black box process. Each year, about 20% of China's GDP (about 700 billion RMB) are spent on purchasing goods for administrative purposes.[12] Sound public procurement system would ensure a higher degree of transparency, thus to contain nepotism and corruption, at least to a tolerable scale.

1.3 Party Guidance through Digital Agenda-setting

Since the fall of the Eastern European communist regimes, ensuring political stability has been particularly important to the Chinese government. The government believes that this task demands a great control of information flows. It is vital to let the citizens know what it wants them to know and not let them know anything that may damage the image of the government or arouse social troubles. On the other hand, both the leadership and the bureaucracy need to be well informed of any problems that may damage the state's image and control. These two somewhat contradictory goals have become one of the main tasks for Chinese e-government.

Internet has special features in comparison to the conventional media. The Chinese leadership knows that the Internet as a global network may become a great political threat to a regime, and China is not ready to be conquered in this "battle field without bloodshed" (Jiang Zemin).[13] The government hopes to use the internet to regain the terrain lost by the traditional propaganda system that was weakened in the reform period. The Chinese government decided in mid-2000 to invest 1 billion RMB to set up 5 new Internet-based information agencies, which would have their own mega-news websites. These mega-news portals are www.peopledaily.com (People's Daily), www.xinhua.com (Xinghua News Agency), www.cctv.com (China Central Television), www.chinadaily.com.cn (China Daily) and www.cnnic.cn (China Internet Network Information Center).[14] As of May 2001, the number of mega-news portals supported by the central government has increased to 12.[15]

Strictly speaking, not all the aforementioned portals are a part of the e-government. But they are funded by the government and are regarded by people as a kind of e-government. Telecom operators have to subsidize these unprofitable mega-news services. In accordance with a directive of the Propaganda Department of the CCP, all other websites run by provincial or private providers are required to follow the style and the content of these "information websites"[16] and are not authorized to release independently any politically oriented information.

This practice of the central government has also been adopted by local governments. On 18 May 2001, a news portal was established in the city of Ningbo, called "Zhongguo Ningbo Wang" (China-Ningbo-Web). The main organs running this portal are the municipal party propaganda department and the newspaper "Ningbo Daily". The importance of "agenda-setting" on such an official website was emphasized in the speech made by the mayor at the opening ceremony:

"(The China-Ningbo-Web) should conduct public opinion into right-minded channels. It should present a good image of Ningbo toward the outside world... It will enable us to propagandize the principle and policy of the Party and to release information on Ningbo about various facets such as economy and social development. At the same time it will ensure that we can inform the world more timely and more exactly about Ningbo."[17]

In short, the view that agenda-setting for all other media should become an inseparable part of officially run websites has become one of the features of Chinese understanding of the e-government.

2. Undertakings of the Chinese Government in Constructing an E-government

Building up a sound e-government is a tremendous project both technically and politically. The quality of an e-government depends very much on the government's own information policy, the number of users and their educational level and motivation. Up to now, no country has successfully met all the requirements necessary for an ideal form of the e-government. China is far from the standard set by the existing "well-performing" e-governments of certain countries and regions like the USA, Singapore and Taiwan, but it is important to analyze its rapid development.

2.1. Infrastructure and Internet Subscribers

The Internet was introduced to China much later than to other industrial nations. Even in the early 1990s the "Internet" was still an alien word to the general populace. Starting from the mid to late 1990s China poured huge amounts of resources into building up a modern telecommunications network.

Figures from Ministry for Information Industry (MII) and the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) reveal an astounding growth in the use of phones and mobile phones, particularly between 1999 and 2001. The number of telephone subscribers grew from 10 million in 1995 to 20 million in 2002, while the number of mobile phone subscribers has reached 18 million by the end of July 2002. Alongside with rapid development of telecommunication infrastructure and IT, the number of Internet users has increased significantly, jumping from just 62,000 in 1997 to 41 million in 2002. [18] In addition, China had more than 100 million cable TV subscribers. All of these developments have laid a solid foundation for the realization of the "information society", at least in the urban regions.

2.2. Seventeen Golden Projects

The first step of Chinese e-government was made in December 1993 when the State Council formed a high-level leading group, known as the Joint Committee of National Economic Informatization. The three officially mandated goals clarify the direction and future progression of the so-called "Golden Projects":
" To build a national information highway as a path to modernization and economic development;
" To drive the development of information technology in China; and
" To unify the country by tying the center to the provinces and by allowing the government to act across ministerial and industrial demarcation lines.

Since then a series of Golden Projects were inaugurated at the Joint Conference. Vice Premier Li Lanqing first proposed the "Golden Customs" project in June 1993. It was to create an integrated data communications system connecting foreign trade companies, banks, and the customs and tax authorities. The system was to speed up customs clearance and strengthen the authorities' ability to collect tax and duty payments. It would also allow companies to submit import and export declarations to the customs authorities, calculate duty payments, and check import and export statistics.

The second project is a pilot project called the "Golden Bridge." It was to build the first national public economic information communication network. This project was funded approximately US$ 3 million, granted under the former Premier Li Peng.

Another project, the "Golden Card," was initiated to create a unified payment clearance system which would allow the wide use of credit and debit cards. The project was initiated by a speech of President Jiang Zemin in 1993 calling for the creation of a nationwide credit card system, which could be used throughout China. China's fragmented banking system has traditionally made it extremely difficult to clear transactions, thus formed a major barrier to commerce especially e-business. The Golden Card was launched in 1995 and 1996 in 12 trial areas, including most of the major cities and more developed provinces. It is still under construction and is estimated to be completed in 2-3 years.

As the purposes of the first three pilot projects indicate, the central government embraces the development of telecommunications industry and IT and pays great attention to regain and enhance surveillance over the activities of government workers. The Golden Tax Project, for example, allows customs departments to verify through networks a range of data in order to facilitate customs management and prevent illegal activities - one of the major initial conceptual attractions of the project.

2.3. Government Online Project

When the Golden Projects launched in the period of 1993 and 1998, most of the projects were run under the patronage of a certain top leader or a certain government departments. Therefore there was strong "departmental interests" behind each project. It was characterized as grandiose plans and one-dimensional, sector-oriented networking. There was also no independent examination of each plan's feasibility, so the results of these projects often did not fully meet the originally envisioned objectives.

In order to network all administrations and state departments, another plan called the "Government Online Project" was conceived. It was launched at the beginning of 1999 by China Telecom and the State Economic and Trade Commission, along with the information offices of more than 40 central departments.

The following phases were conceived at the end of 1998[19]:
a. By the end of 1998, 30% of ministries and provincial governments should have been moved onto the Internet.
b. By the end 1999, 60% of departments of central and provincial levels should be brought online. To advance the project, 1999 was declared to be the year of "Government Online".
c. By the end of 2000, 80% of state organs should be online. Some of the websites should be free from subsidies and be able to finance themselves.
d. In the years immediately following 2000, all state organs including embassies and consulates abroad should be networked.

As the White Paper of Government Online Project states, the www.gov.cn entails six components outlining the main concept of the project:
a. "The guidelines of 'Government Online'(zhengfu wangzhan daohang)" provide installation service and consulting to local governments.
b. "The propaganda center of 'Government Online' (zhengfu wangzhan xuanchuan zhongxin)" aims to present events concerning the project organized by central or provincial governments.
c. "Bulletins of government needs (zhengfu gongzuo rexian)" concentrates on the publication of job and other government advertisements.
d. "The service center (fuwu zhongxin)" provides services for the installation of virtual platforms, security measures and other consulting and personal training related to the "Government Online Project".
e. "The information centre (ziliao zhongxin)" presents laws and regulations available to citizens and other data banks.
f. "Hundred cities network" (baicheng zaixian) regularly presents provincial hosts of Government Online and delivers information from the provincial governments.

The Government Online Project as a nationwide campaign in its first stage can be characterized as a hybrid. The central government was keen to improve business environment by networking government organs, but also keen to regain surveillance over the provincial authorities. When provincial and lower level government institutions were reluctant to digitalize administration work and government service, directives were imposed. Several times during 1999-2000, the GOPSC also organized workshops and conferences to encourage the participants to improve the quality of their websites.

As is known now, 1998 was the high point of the global digital bubble. The description of e-government was mostly combined with an (over) optimistic stance toward digital world including e-government.

2.4. Achievements Towards Establishing E-Government

Due to the initiative from China's top leadership, most provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities directly under the State Council have set up a leading group on informatization headed by their principal leaders. Prefectures, cities and counties have also formed an informatization body, giving shape to a nationwide informatization leadership structure. Parallel to the formation of an institutional structure, there occurred a modest form of e-government. The introduction of e-government has improved governability and has reduced tension between the government and citizens who use the net.

Via digital networking, criminal activities such as tax fraud could be, if not prevented, at least contained at a certain level. By now more than 60% of the country's tax authorities have been computerized. 75% of tax is allegedly collected via the intranet. By the end of 2000, the "Golden Tax" and "Golden Custom" projects were partially completed. This means that the tax authorities and the customs are able to operate together to make taxation work more effectively. In 1999 China Customs solved criminal and smuggling cases valued at approximately RMB80 billion. This system also allowed the government to collect RMB 1,266 billion tariff payments in the year 2000, an increase of 22.8% over 1999.

To some extent, the communication between citizens and the government has been enhanced via digital networking. Numerous local governments with well-designed portals provide citizens contact with mayors or respective authorities via an e-mailbox. During the sessions of the Chinese People's Congress each spring there is a special chat room and e-mail connection between delegates and citizens which allow Internet users to put forward publicly their suggestions and criticisms (though the criticisms can not go beyond the tolerated limit.)

2.5. Further Development

Under the rubric of the "Government Online" project, as a next stage to the e-government project, the Chinese authorities have planned the computerization and digitalization of enterprises and households. Since 2001, projects known as "Enterprises Online" (www.sinoeol.com) and "Households Online" (www.sinohome.com) have been embarked on.[20] The goal of the "Enterprises Online" project is to have one million small enterprises, 10,000 medium size ones and 100 large enterprises connected with the Internet by the end of April 2001, so that the companies can "promote management, set up modern enterprise systems and become more competitive in the market."[21] Compare to the "Government Online" project, the later two do not have concrete targets. The government tends to let them be managed by the market forces instead of by administrative controls.

Furthermore, an ambitious goal concerning the Internet and IT development was set by the central government in the 10th Five Year Plan (2001-2005). In five years China should have a modern broadband network combined with Internet, telephone line, and cable TV networks. The number of Internet users will reach 150 million, meaning that more than 11% population will be networked online. When set against today's less than 2% of Internet users within the entire Chinese population, this goal is venturesome as well as encouraging.

3. A Preliminary Assessment of the Chinese e-Government

3.1. Examples of Worldwide Comparative Assessment and Some Methodological Considerations

Perhaps the best systematic study of the comparative success of e-government is the one carried out by the World Market Research Center. Based on the methods employed by West, Darrell M. (2201) in "An Assessment of City Government Websites"[22], the World Market Research Center issued a report on the worldwide assessment of e-governments including China's in June 2002.

The data consists of 2,288 government websites from 196 nations around the world. Among the sites analyzed were those of executive offices, e.g. president, prime minister, judicial offices (such as major national courts) and cabinet offices. Six aspects have been assessed as the qualification of an e-government: 1) online service, 2) privacy and security, 3) disability access, 4) foreign language access, 5) advertisements and user fees, 6) public outreach (communication between government and citizens).

According to the report, China takes 12th place regarding "online service". The top e-government provider was Taiwan with 65% sites offering online services. In China, 26% of national websites offer such services. However, the overall scores of China's e-government were quite low, placing 85th among the 196 nations.[23] There are sevearl methodological weaknesses within this survey. It neglects the back-office developments such as government intranets, joint development of applications to facilitate interoperability, and joined-up government services. A sound study of e-government should include the assessment of the back office as well as the front office.[24] Since it is often unrealistic to study the back office because most surveys are done at "long distance," the question remains how to assess the "front office" in a more comprehensive way so that the results will better reflect the reality. Moreover, local users, or "local e-citizens" were never asked about their needs. Besides, the Chinese web sites were read with the help of a translation machine, which significantly impared the understanding of their contents. A multi-dimentional method in studing e-government is in dare need.

3.2. A Comparative Analysis of the Content of Government Portals (Dec. 2000)

We can identify some special characteristics of China's e-government by comparing the content of the first page (welcome page) of the government portals of PRC, USA, Singapore and Taiwan These websites have similar designs in which the welcome pages provide an overview of what each portal contains.

This analysis focuses on the links supplied on the first page, which reflects the agenda and motivation of the website-maker. Five categories of links are analyzed:
1) Service-oriented links provide links to other (lower) government organs, information data in terms of public goods, as well as links to services provided by the central government.
2) Communication-oriented links usually consist of feedback e-mailboxes and polls to which every cyber-citizen can normally gain access.
3) Business-oriented links provide business and economic information, such as stock market data as well as commercial advertisements.
4) Agenda-setting links indicate that the government's interest in taking a role in guiding and influencing the populace. These links provide certain kinds of information, including information to help improve the government's image.
5) Administration-oriented links focus on information about the state organs and the work of the government (including public procurement system).

As the table shows, in comparison to other e-governments, China's government website puts great emphasis on agenda-setting. Although the site mostly reports news on IT promotion events, it is obvious that the central government takes it for granted that the release of news is a matter that the government should have control of. [25]

A comparative content analysis of the Chinese government website


* Most links on the Chinese websites fit into this category only formally, because their content is not always identical with the definition. The same is true of the links to do with communication.

Among all the e-governments' websites explored here, China's government site is the only one which is financially supported (at least partly) by advertisements from foreign and Chinese companies-like Microsoft, Cisco, IBM and Legend. The relatively large percentage of business-oriented links confirms once again the government's view that the economy is the top priority. On the other hand it also indicates that the establishment of websites cannot be guaranteed by the government itself, as there is a lack of institutional and legal framework for an e-government. For state organs at a lower level, where the budgets are small, the founding of e-government in the future could involve many problems.

Moving onto "service" -which should be the main feature of e-government-Cui Shaoming, who conducted a survey about China's e-government websites in mid-1999, points out that China's e-government is still far off from its goal of providing citizens with sufficient public goods. [26] The results of my examination (Dec 2000) show that the links on the website "www.gov.cn" deliver very little direct information. As China's White Paper of Government Online Project suggests, the state organs of central government, as well as those at the provincial level, should present data banks and statistics concerning all branches as public goods to all residents. But this goal remains wishful thinking for the majority of government websites. According to surveys, the amount of information that goes in and out of China is only 0.1% and 0.05% respectively of the total volume of global online information.[27] Up until now, the Chinese government still possesses a monopoly of information. As reported in 1999, about 80% of the social data and around 3,000 of data banks are kept secret in official organs.[28]

3.3. How Attractive is the Chinese E-Government to Internet Users? A Further Comparative Study Made Between Nov. 8 and Dec. 8 2000.

Investigation of the websites of China's ministerial organs reveals an unequal development. The Ministry of Foreign Trade's presence on the Internet is considered very successful because of smooth cooperation between the various departments within the ministry and between the ministry and commercial institutions. An official report reveals that the access rate has reached an average of 720,000 per day in 2000. Half million hits come from abroad.[29] In contrast, between November 8th to December 8th 2000, only 966 people visited the site of the State Development Planning Commission (SDPC) and 1334 hits registered by Statistics Information Network (SIN - a website of State Statistics Bureau).

Many municipal e-governments in China are not often visited. Between November 6 to December 6 2000, Qingdao[30] (pop. 2.2 m), Shenzhen (pop. 2.79 m) and Chifeng (pop. 0.44 m) was registered with 1,558[31], 540 and 93 hits per day respectively. In comparison, Taipei's (pop. 5.5 million) website was visited by 5,848 hits daily in the same time.

The reason for these differences lies not only in the construction and content of the websites, but also in the varying levels of interest that cybercitizens have in the Internet.

3.4. Existing Problems Hidden Behind the Chinese E-Government

Like an iceberg, the invisible part of e-government (back-office) may well be the largest. Significant behind-the-scenes changes are thus necessary for successful and cost-effective e-government applications. The importance of back-office capabilities increases when agencies move from static presentation of information to dynamic services that involve direct communications and transactions.

Back-office transformation usually includes the following: major business process and workflow improvement; fundamental re-thinking of data definitions and data quality factors; and records creation, maintenance, and preservation rules. If an e-service involves more than one program or organization, then data sharing, process linkage, and system integration add more risk and complexity. These critical transformations can be extremely difficult, time consuming, and expensive. Consequently, they require strong executive support.

E-government is based on the principle of rational administration, including sharing of information and transparency. To get accustomed to this administrative process requires a modern way of thinking as well of behavior. Chinese state officials, as well as those in other industrial countries, all face problems in changing the old working style. Two Chinese commentators, Gu and Huang, made the following remarks:

(China's) e-government is a revolution. But it is not a revolution that can be carried out easily. (…) The 'Government Online Project' is a thoroughly altered model of the way in which the government has operated and functioned for many decades.[32]

Obviously, the introduction of the e-government will not only enable the top leaders to monitor the public service but also enhance the information exchange between public servants, so that administrative coordination will become easier and citizens can benefit from the reduction of unnecessary procedures.

An e-government is a product of high-tech societies, for it assumes that every state worker should be computer-literate and that any work place is computerized. For a country like China, where the development is uneven, it will still take time to meet the requirements necessary for introducing an e-government. For developed regions like Beijing, Shanghai and some coastal provinces, the emergence of e-government will inevitably lead to a fundamental change of working style, both technologically and mentally. However, such changes can only be possible if the state officials are oriented to "serve the people" (in the words of Mao Zedong).

Even disregarding the obstacles imposed by the institutional and legal framework, the state workers still have strong resistance toward a citizen oriented work style. Few are ready to give up their information monopoly by making information available online. As a result, 80% of databases are locked in the government files. Neither enterprises nor individuals can access them. Even among government departments there is no regular exchange of information as required. The reason for the lack of information transparency lies partly in the state officials themselves and partly in China's information policy. The existing law of state secrecy is, as Zhou Hanhua points out, far behind the present reality and cannot meet modern administrative requirements. To overcome the difficulties in online information publication, a new nationwide legal framework needs to be created. [33]

As for intranets, there are also many problems to be solved in internal surveillance. Even when projects like Golden Tax and Customs are completed, the scale of surveillance would still be limited. It is still quite easy for the lower authorities to supply false data to deceive the central government. A sound e-government can only work if other control mechanisms like freedom of speech are available. Though in the past decades Chinese citizens have achieved a certain degree of freedom of speech, neither media nor citizens are allowed to criticize the authorities publicly. So there is no further control mechanism that can be employed to combat fraud or deceit by lower level authorities if digital surveillance fails to work as the central government expects. Thus the conflicts between administrative and political reform that the Chinese leadership faces are legion.

Apart from the political aspects, there also exist technical problems that hinder the rapid development of Chinese e-government. One is the lack of funding. Many local governments do not have adequate financial resources to acquire well-trained computer and network specialists to create and maintain quality portals. For the same reason the security measures of e-government portals are usually weak and far from meeting even the minimal standard. The "hacker war" in May 2001 has shown that Chinese e-government is quite vulnerable to cyber attacks. [34]

4. Concluding Remarks

China's e-government is still in its infancy. A business-oriented e-government connected with enterprises networks is likely to emerge in the coming years. But apart from big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, a nationwide service-oriented e-government is too much to expect in the short term. In the long term, however, Chinese citizens will benefit more than those in other developing countries from efforts in establishing the e-government.

Politically, it is foreseeable that by harnessing the Internet and other technologies to improve the efficiency and transparency in the government and to fight corruption, the Chinese government may be able to use new technologies to facilitate its political control. Transparency by itself does not necessarily mean democracy. Yet the introduction of e-government will in the long run inevitably lead to a breakthrough in the political system reform, and the way of thinking and behavior. This implies that e-government will accelerate a process of "peaceful transformation" that the Chinese leadership might not have expected.

(The Author is a lecturer in Free University of Berlin, Germany)

Notes:
[1] New Zealand Government (2001), pp. 1.
[2] See: 1) "E-Government: The Next American Revolution" in: www.excelgov.org/egovpoll/report/contents.htm (02.02.2001); 2) "Modernizing Government", in: www.citu.gov.uk/moderngov/whitepapter/4310-01.htm (03.04.2001).
[3] It is nowadays questionable if e-voting can be realized technically. Besides, the 1990s euphoria (prevailing mostly in the USA), which overemphasized the significance of democratisation via the Internet, seems to have entered a stage of disenchantment.
[4] White Paper of "Government Online" Project, Beijing 2000.
[5] Lycian Pye (1988): The Mandarin and the Cadre: China´s Political Cultures, p. 99.
[6] Zhao (2000).
[7] Zhao (2000).
[8] The 836-Plan was a plan initiated by several top scientists in China, who suggested to Deng Xiaoping in the 80´s that China should have its own high-tech in telecommunication, biochemistry and other fields. Deng approved the suggestion. The plan was launched soon after by several research groups and was called the 836-Plan. After Jiang´s coming into power, the scale of the plan was enlarged, with yet more emphasis on IT. The "909-Project" was conceived during 90´s. Its target was to develop China´s own software industry to reach the newest world standard.
[9] Cf. Junhua Zhang (2001): China´s Government Online and Attempts to Gain Technical Legitimacy, in: Asien, Nr. 80, July 2001, pp. 93-115.
[10] Government Online Project Service Center (GOPSC) (2000a).
[11] Anthony Giddens (1985): The Nation-State and Violence, Cambridge, pp. 201-208.
[12] China Internet Weekly, June 12, 2000, pp.28.
[13] The paradoxical love-hate feelings towards the Internet on the part of the CCP are clear in many speeches made by Chinese leaders. In late 1999, Jiang Zemin asserted, for example, that the Internet is an instrument the Western countries use to launch a "peaceful transformation" (subversion) of the "socialist countries". Cf. Open Magazine January 2000 p. 14.
[14] www.mingpao.com/newspaper/200002101/t_cfa1h.htm (June 16. 2000)
[15] www.bignews.org.20010530.txt (June 3. 2001).
[16] The overwhelmingly supported mega-news websites are renmin ribao (People´s Daily), xinghuashe (Xinghua News Agency), guoji guangbuo diantai (International Broadcast Station), zhongguo ribao (China Daily) und zhongguo guojihulianwang xingwenzhongxingm (CNNIC). Besides, the Ministry of Culture established two websites (www.ccnt.gov.cn; www.ccnt.com.cn) in order to enhance the world wide influence of "Chinese grand culture" Cf. (accessed on October 22, 2000); www.bignews.org/20000221.txt; www.scmp.com (June 16. 2000).
[17] www.dailynews.sina.com.cn/c267101.html (05.06.2001).
[18] www.mii.gov.cn; www.cnnic.gov.cn
[19] Project of Government Online (II): Assembly for Promoting the Online Government of 100 Cities, Beijing 2000, p. 5.
[20] www.cctv.com/news/financial/20001217/101.html (Dec. 1. 2000)
[21] www.peoplesdaily.cn/english (June 23.2000); http://www.virtualchina.com/news/jun00/ 060200-domain-names-jg-dcm.html (February 12. 2000).
[22] www.developmentgateway.org/topic/?page_id=3647
[23] http://www.worldmarketsanalysis.com/e_gov_report.html (November 2. 2002)
[24] The notion of "front office" refers mostly to what one perceives by employing and judging the visible web structure and content of e-government, while "back office" refers to the hidden side of e-government such as the infrastructure, institutional framework, and administrative and political culture of the countries in question.
[25] Since the analysis was compiled.
[26] Beginning from June 2001, China created another e-government portal with the URL: http://govinfo.cei.gov.cn/index.shtml.
[27] Cf. www.mingpao.com/newspaper/20000210/t_cfalh.htm (February 10, 2000).
[28] Cf. Renmin Ribao, 23 January 1999.
[29] www.mingpao.com/newspaper/20000218/t_cfd1hhtm (February 18, 2000).
[30] Zhongguo qingnianbao (Chinese Youths), August 10, 1999. Qingdao was one of "top five" and "top ten" e-government websites in 1999 and 2000.
[31] Meanwhile an important factor should be taken into consideration: apart from Chinese the website of Qingdao can also be read in several other languages-in other words, visitors of these websites could also be non-Chinese cyber-citizens.
[32] Gu Dong'an / Huang Qinhui: "Zhengfu shangwang, geming shangwei chenggong?" ("Government Online" - An Unfulfilled Revolution?) in: Diannao Ribao (Computer Daily) Beijing, August 14.1999.
[33] Yang, Lianmin (2000). Zhou is responsible for a research project on the legal framework of the e-government in China at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).

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