COMMENTS: Do Not Go Digital

NBC and CBS both took us to China. CBS had Barry Petersen file part three of its series, Caught in the Web, on obsessive use of the Internet. In China, non-stop surfing and interactive game playing by teenagers produce the same problems as anywhere in the world. Petersen singled out World of Warcraft as especially enthralling. Upscale Chinese families pay for their youth to attend medical clinics, including mild electroshock therapy, where they relearn how to interact person-to-person with their peers and play outdoors. But Petersen pointed out that there is a separate reason why extreme online activity is frowned on. The Communist Party does not approve of "what it cannot control"--any parallel activity in civil society, such as a chess club, a book club, a political party. And the Internet falls into that frowned-on independent category.

NBC's China story was an In Depth preview of Scott Wapner's CNBC documentary Business Nation. Wapner illustrated the trade frictions between the United States and the People's Republic over copyright and patent violations and China's alleged tolerance of counterfeiting. Refreshingly, Wapner avoided the cliched examples of digital piracy--movie DVDs, music CDs, computer software and so on--and turned to ripoffs of old-fashioned C20th manufacturing. No, not Rolex watches or Vuitton handbags…Zippo lighters. Workers at the factory in rural Bradford Pa have endured 15% layoffs because somewhere near Guangzhou someone is churning out Zippo knockoffs.


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