Give China credit for gradually loosening boundaries, and for seeking advice on reform from abroad. The partly privatized Hunan Radio, TV & Film Group is giving Beijing's China Central Television stiff competition. In the wealthy southern province of Guangdong, Southern Weekend's exposes of corruption have made it a commercial success. Caijing, a financial monthly, blew the lid on a stock-pumping ring run by most of the country's government-owned mutual-fund houses.
But the ghosts of Marx and Mao are fighting back. In late May, the top editors at Southern Weekend were sacked. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists last month named Chinese President Jiang Zemin to its enemies-of-the-press list, noting that 22 journalists were in jail in China at the end of 2000, more than in any other country.
China is riding a tiger. Its increasingly knowledge-based economy needs a freer flow of information. Yet freer information will undermine the Communist Party. China's best bet is to pursue evolutionary change, as South Korea and Taiwan have. That means a more consistent policy of media freedom. While that may cause trouble for the Chinese Communist Party, it can only be good for the people of China.