China's push for Internet sovereignty gained momentum abroad after Edward Snowden released information about U.S. National Security Agency surveillance programs. Capitalizing on the anti-U.S. sentiment in other authoritarian countries like Russia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, China wooed developing countries with growing online populations to consider the benefits of control of the Internet.
I approached a man who was cleaning the streets. I introduced myself as a college student from Beijing and asked, "I'm just curious, but what do you think is the 'Chinese Dream'?" He looked at me, his eyes full of alert. After a few seconds, he chuckled awkwardly. "Well, people like me," he looked at the broom in his hand and sighed, "are in no position to answer this question." "But shouldn't the 'Chinese Dream' belong to the Chinese people? What is your dream?" A long silence ensued.