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Editor's note: David Lee is a consultant and author based in Beijing who focuses on energy, health, international politics and international development. The article reflects the author's opinion, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.|
The annual World Internet Conference came back to East China's picturesque Wuzhen over the weekend. As China's Venice-style ancient township again greets industry heavy-weights and thought leaders, it would be interesting to go back to the reason why Wuzhen has been chosen to be the permanent seat of the World Internet Conference.
After all, the super cool, sometimes geeky, internet technologies seem to be so idiosyncratic with the traditional delicate brick and wooden houses, narrow cobble stone alleyways, and winding canals and waterways throughout Wuzhen.
Well, the internet certainly doesn't boast the thousand years of the long history of Wuzhen, whose economy has been built on the intricate canals and waterways within and without. However, the modern technological invention of the internet works in a way, not unlike the canals and waterways, and modern society has quite a lot to learn about how best to use the internet, just as the ancient township of Wuzhen has benefited from canals and waterways.
The canals and waterways are available to all citizens in Wuzhen. In the case of an average township citizen, he or she gets to travel to other places for work, business, or leisure. Such connectivity provides an outsize advantage to local business tycoons though, as they use the easy transportation to trade in silk, porcelain, tea, grains, and many other profitable goods. Moreover, building on such connectivity, clever businesspeople develop innovative, sophisticated infrastructure, and mechanisms such as guilds and banks to drive towards even bigger business scale and profitability.
Therefore, the choice of Wuzhen as the permanent seat of the World Internet Conference reflects the very nature of the internet as a key connectivity tool available to all, average citizens and business elites alike.
However, age-old practice in China tells the world that the ready availability of the connectivity tool doesn't necessarily ensure universal well-being or happiness. While the average citizen in Wuzhen does enjoy easy transportation thanks to the canals and waterways, they are in a significantly disadvantaged position compared with local business tycoons when it comes to trading large volumes of commodities.