[BEGIN QUOTE] To take [Google China operations head Kai-Fu] Lee at his word is to take a leap of faith: that the Internet, simply through its own inherent properties, will slowly chip away at the government's ability to control speech, seeding a cultural change that strongly favors democracy. In this view, there will be no "great man" revolution in China, no Lech Walesa rallying his oppressed countrymen. Instead, the freedom fighters will be a half-billion mostly apolitical young Chinese, blogging and chatting about their dates, their favorite bands, video games — an entire generation that is growing up with public speech as a regular habit.
At one point in our conversation, Lee talked about the "Super Girl" competition televised in China last year, the country's analogue to "American Idol." Much like the American version of the show, it featured young women belting out covers of mainstream Western pop songs amid a blizzard of corporate branding. (The full title of the show was "Mongolian Cow Sour Yogurt Super Girl Contest," in honor of its sponsor.)
In each round, viewers could vote for their favorite competitor via text message from their mobile phones. As the season ran its course, it began to resemble a presidential election campaign, with delirious fans setting up Web sites urging voters to pick their favorite singer. In the final episode, eight million young Chinese used their mobile phones to vote; the winner was Li Yuchun, a 21-year-old who dressed like a schoolgirl and sang "Zombie," by the Irish band the Cranberries.
"If you think about a practice for democracy, this is it," Lee said. "People voted for Super Girls. They loved it — they went out and campaigned." It may not be a revolution, in other words, but it might be a start. [END QUOTE]
Google's China Problem (and China's Google Problem) - New York Times. (Emphasis and extra paragraphing added.)