As social media helped topple regimes in the Middle East and northern Africa, a senior colonel in the People’s Liberation Army publicly warned that an Internet dominated by the U.S. threatened to overthrow China’s Communist Party. Ye Zheng and a Chinese researcher, writing in the state-run China Youth Daily, said the Internet represented a new form of global control, and the U.S. was a “shadow” present during some of those popular uprisings.

Beijing had better pay attention. Four years after they sounded that alarm, China is paying a lot of attention. Its government is pushing to rewrite the rules of the global Internet, aiming to draw the world’s largest group of Internet users away from an interconnected global commons and to increasingly run parts of the Internet on China’s terms.It envisions a future in which governments patrol online discourse like border-control agents, rather than let the U.S., long the world’s digital leader, dictate the rules. MORE