It's almost like C.H.I.P.S. meets George Orwell's 1984 meets Murakami. The Chinese government has decided to use a pair of cartoon cops to patrol computer screens of Internet users to make sure they are abiding by strict censorship rules, and the duo will encourage others to help them by ratting out potential violators.
The man and woman cartoon crime-fighting duo will patrol the screens of Chinese Web surfers, sometimes on foot, sometimes on motorcycle, sometimes in a patrol car and sometimes -- in true Chinese style -- on bicycles.
Public officials are using the unusual policing method to remind Web surfers that their activities are under constant observation and that no deviations from explicit Chinese Internet-use restrictions will be tolerated. Particular sites of interest for this cute little cartoon dynamic duo will be pornography sites, online gaming sites and sites of political interest.
The Manga crime-fighters will start working their beat on Sept. 1 on the 13 most important Chinese Internet portals, including Soku and Sina. The government in Beijing claims their patrol area will be expanded to include all Web sites registered in China by year's end.
Manga is the Japanese word for comic book or cartoons. Manga and its animated version, known as "anime," originate in Japan, China and other countries in Southeast Asia. They hold an important place as entertainment items in a number of countries and have gained worldwide popularity over the last few decades.
Thanks to Web 2.0, crime fighting and helping make a computer citizen's arrest has never been easier. Nor has creating an Orwellian state. If something on a Web site people visit or something they see another Web surfer doing strikes them as legally unkosher, a simple click of the mouse on one of the comic figures takes them straight to the police Internet site, where they can file a report on any lapses.
It would seem that the traditionally draconian Beijing Public Security Ministry has decided to put on a friendly face when it comes to enforcing the cold rules of the road for Internet usage in China. "We will solicit even more images for our virtual police and update our tips on Internet security in order to further enhance the image of our Internet police and better adapt to the surfing habits of Internet users," an official said.