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September 12, 2008

NARRATOR: China's booming economy has brought about all the changes money can buy - towering skyscrapers, bustling nightlife, and brand-name shopping at its glittering best. These new financial freedoms have brought a rethinking of many of China's institutions - including the press. Now, a new breed of journalist has risen up all over China.

MICHAEL ANTI: Since 2000, many, many, you know, engineers, computer programmer, and many, many other professions was invited to join the newspaper, because the, now, the media now become a market. It's not only, like before, propaganda machine. This is Zhao Jing…better known by his online name Michael Anti. He's among the best-known of this burgeoning class of reporters. This 33-year-old from Nanjing province used to be an engineer by day. But growing frustrated by the government's censorship of all types of information, in 2001, at night, Zhao began posting political commentary online.

MICHAEL ANTI: I think the most important things, even in college, I have no idea what the political system is. And what I need for the-- you know, and what's the social change. So I don't care, because I'm an engineer. But when I go to work, I find that in fact, I lack of the information, the true information.

So because I can have access to the Internet, so I find, Internet, for me, maybe is the only way to find the real information, and the real news. So I thought that time the newspaper and magazine in China is not good. So maybe it make me have the idea, so I can try to do some news for China.

NARRATOR: Soon enough, a newspaper editor saw his internet postings and offered him a job as a reporter. But the newspaper was shut down by the government shortly afterwards, and so Zhao then started his own blog under the name Michael Anti - using a popular microsoft blogging program.

His writings promoting the ideas of free speech and a free press in china drew thousands of readers. But by the end of 2005, the Chinese censors had read enough: they pressed Microsoft to delete Anti's blog, and the company complied. Microsoft's complicity in this censorship caused a worldwide outcry.

MICHAEL ANTI: The big challenges for today's journalist in China is two points. First is the censorship. The second is self-censorship. The censorship is pretty easy to understand that. That we lack of a real, you know, American standard of freedom speech, and the freedom press. So we still cannot publish some articles in the newspaper.

But the second point is self-censorship. Self-censorship is not about, you cannot publish because you are inputting - you are in danger of jail. You're, you know, arrested. Not. Because you will lose the better position, better reputation, even better chances or the, you know, the middle class living. It's about good life.

NARRATOR: Anti says there is a difference between bloggers like him and the political dissidents that often end up in Chinese prisons or worse. He appreciates their dedication, but believes he can do more good for the people of China staying just this side of the line.

JESSICA WANG: Did you know the line in 2005?

MICHAEL ANTI: Yeah. I knew the line. But sometimes… of course, I knew the line. But you know, sometimes you are just yourself. You don't really care about something. You know, like a-- sometime, you just want to speak out.

MICHAEL ANTI: For the civil society of China, it's just about a kind of calculation.

Sometimes, a little bit compromise, we are, expand the whole market and the whole personal freedom. For example, MSN blocked my blog, which I was very angry.

But still, I will appreciate everything Microsoft did for the Chinese people. Because the civil society now just used Google, used Microsoft messengers to build up our civil society. We just chat from that among, using the MSN messengers.

So, at same time, Microsoft and the Google do some compromise. But they also do another contribution to Chinese freedom. So, it is very complicated things. I don't really want to blame, you know, the, a little bit compromise of the businessman.

But I do think we need some kind of voices to balance these kind of compromise. It is also good because we need pressure. But, and, for myself, I don't want to really blame them.

NARRATOR: Anti went on to work as a researcher for the NEW YORK TIMES, and earned prestigious fellowships at Cambridge University and Harvard University. Now he's back in China, and says the blogosphere is still vital to advancing free thought in China...but in continually evolving ways.

MICHAEL ANTI: Journalists can't speak out in some cases. So at that time, they just put their stuff, their stories online, become blogger. So blogger and the journalist, it's just kind of day life and a night life. But it's one person. It is very strange. And this way is changing China, because your journalists, almost every best journalist, at same time, is blogger.

But I think most of the best bloggers now in China, they did entertainment more than politics. Because-- I was blocked. I was removed by the Microsoft. So, I don't think, really think a real political blogger can survive for a long time.

So, now that the best bloggers, they just do more their entertainment than politics. Sometimes, it's a kind of black humor. But still, it's entertainment, mixed with the politics. It's a kind, also kind of surviving tactic.

I think most of the journalists in the China have the dream that someday they can help China to do, you know, to, someday, they can help the civil society to become more mature. Of course, I am one of them.

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