East Asia and Southeast Asia

East Asia and Southeast Asia comprise a diversity of countries with different political systems, ranging from fully developed democracies to authoritative regimes. This diversity is also manifested in the Internet regulation policies in the region. For example, China’s policies appear largely devoted to the development of IT industry, allowing citizens to benefit from the economic aspects of the Internet, while also placing strict restrictions on online political activism. Many people and institutions, such as Freedom on the Net, rank China as the worst country in the world for internet freedom, serving as a yardstick for comparison in the region. With these factors as well as the fact that China is also the dominant economic power in the region, there is a preponderance of research that has been conducted on China’s internet.  Japan is another major country of focus in the region, due to its developed democracy and fairly Westernized economy. While research on China predominantly focuses on its censorship and internet rights, research on Japan details its robust ICT sector. South Korea is also renowned for its high rates of internet penetration and developed ICT sector.

Many other countries in the region are grappling with issues of connectivity, such as Myanmar, with only 2.1% internet penetration. Southeast Asian countries such as Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam do not have the same funds as China or South Korea to invest in internet infrastructure. As a result, research focuses on the digital divides between wealthy, young, urban populations and older, poorer, rural populations. Singapore stands out as a wealthier country in Southeast Asia with penetration rates at 82%.

Many East and Southeast Asian countries also grapple with freedom of speech on the internet. Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia and Singapore have democratic systems of government with a strong authoritarian bent. These governments impose moderate regulation over political content online and occasionally punish dissenting voices on the internet. The South Korean government, also an established democracy, also restricts speech on the web, particularly pertaining to the conflict with North Korea. Aside from China, these countries do not regularly block social media and news sites.

We chose not to include South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc) in this literature review, because these countries are highly distinct from Southeast Asian and East Asian countries culturally, linguistically, socially, and politically, which greatly impacts their internet policy. These countries are covered in their own section.





Coleman, L. (2014). Next Generation Internet Policy in Japan, China and India. Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies, 1(3), 497-512.

This article examines Next Generation Internet standards adopted by Japan, China, and India, which would allow for future expansion of the internet. The author discusses each government’s role in switching from IPv4 to IPv6 in order to combat address exhaustion.

Keywords: internet policy, internet expansion


Hachigian, N. (2002). The internet and power in one‐party East Asian states. Washington Quarterly, 25(3), 41-58.

This paper demonstrates how various one-party states in East Asia retain their power in the age of the internet. The author puts North Korea and Myanmar at one end of the spectrum, as countries that severely restrict internet use, while Malaysia openly promotes online political discourse and China, Vietnam, and Singapore fall somewhere in between. Note: This study is from 2002, so its characterizations of internet governance in different East Asian countries is outdated.

Keywords: internet governance, politics, censorship


Kluver, R., & Banerjee, I. (2005). The Internet in nine Asian nations. Information, Communication & Society, 8(1), 30-46.

While research in the West has indicated that the internet has a democratizing impact, this paper’s research indicates that this does not hold true for Asia. This paper discusses political culture on the internet in nine Asian countries (China, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Japan, India, and South Korea) and regulation of political content in each country.

Keywords: democracy, politics, digital divide




Freedom on the Net ranks China as the worst country in the world for internet rights due to very rigid censorship and poor privacy protections. Much of the scholarship on China’s internet focuses on “The Great Firewall” (a frequently used term for China’s censorship) and its effects on global trade, freedom of expression, and politics. There is not much written about China’s ICT sector, privacy laws, and social media.


King, G., Pan, J., & Roberts, M. E. (2013). How censorship in China allows government criticism but silences collective expression. American Political Science Review, 107(02), 326-343.

This report discusses results from an extensive multiple source analysis of censorship in China. The authors found that China primarily censors social media posts advocating for collective action and does not regulate content criticizing the state as strictly as has been traditionally assumed.

Keywords: social media, censorship, politics, activism


Liang, B., & Lu, H. (2010). Internet development, censorship, and cybercrimes in China. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 26(1), 103-120.

            This article provides a historical account of the development of the internet in China, a contemporary evaluation of censorship policies, and a description of cybercrime. The authors include a thorough discussion of laws and regulations regarding regulation and cybercrime.

Keywords: censorship, cybercrime, politics


Lorentzen, P. (2014). China’s Strategic Censorship. American Journal of Political Science, 58(2), 402-414.

            This paper contemplates the relationship between censorship and corruption through mathematical modeling and then applies it to China’s media policy in the post-Mao era. It considers print media as well as the role the internet has played in shifting China’s media policy.

Keywords: censorship, internet policy, politics


Weber, I., & Jia, L. (2007). Internet and self-regulation in China: the cultural logic of controlled commodification. Media, Culture & Society, 29(5), 772-789.

This article explores self-regulation in China and its links to the cultural logic of controlled commodification as China tries to expand global trade on the internet while simultaneously limiting content online. The authors demonstrate these tensions through case studies in the Chinese online and mobile gaming industries.

Keywords: self-regulation, censorship, global trade


Zhao, J. (2009). A snapshot of Internet regulation in contemporary China: Censorship, profitability and responsibility. From Early Tang Court Debates to China’s Peaceful Rise, 141-151.

This chapter describes growth in China’s information technology sector as well as internet regulations implemented by the government. Zhao argues that China’s approach towards internet regulation has been “pragmatic,” by promoting open internet for global trade while simultaneously blocking harmful forces that could threaten national unity.

Keywords: censorship, globalism, internet policy 




Japan’s internet landscape is one of the freest and most technologically advanced through Asia and as a result Japan is frequently seen as a regional role model and leader in internet and information technology. Most of the research on Japan’s internet focuses on its technical achievements and national IT strategy while there is little written about Japan’s internet governance.


Murakami, T. (2005). Japan’s National IT Strategy and the Ubiquitous Network. NRI paper, (97).

This paper discusses shifts in Japan’s national IT strategy as it prioritizes the penetration of ubiquitous paradigms in Japanese society. Murakami then compares Japan’s computing infrastructure with that of Korea.

Keywords: ICT, internet policy, ubiquitous networks


Yoshimatsu, H. (2007). Global competition and technology standards: Japan’s quest for techno-regionalism. Journal of East Asian Studies, 7(3), 439-468.

This article examines Japan’s technology strategies domestically as well as its regional expansion through collaborations with its neighbors in Asia. Yoshimatsu first considers the significance of technology standards and then applies his analysis to Japan’s internet protocol, open source software, and horology.

Keywords: internet policy, globalism, ICT




Malaysia does not actively ban social media or websites, however police have arrested several bloggers, Facebook users, and journalists for criticizing the government. According to Freedom on the Net, internet access is considered excellent for the region, in large part due to government policies and an open telecommunications market. Research on Malaysia’s internet is also fairly comprehensive with articles covering government policies, internet usage, and internet infrastructure.


Hopkins, J. (2014). Cybertroopers and tea parties: government use of the Internet in Malaysia. Asian Journal Of Communication, 24(1), 5-24.

            Hopkins delineates the rise of social media in politics in Malaysia through evaluating governmental use of media, such as Prime Minister Najib Razak’s Twitter account, the presence of pro-government cybertroopers, and unaffiliated bloggers.

Keywords: blogging, politics, social media


Iga, T. (2012). A Review of Internet Politics in Malaysia. Asian Politics and Policy, 4(1), 137-140.

This brief article describes the rise of the Malaysian blogosphere and online journalism amidst rigid media censorship in Malaysian politics, particularly in the decade stretching from 1998 to 2008.

Keywords: internet activism, blogging, censorship


Salman, A., Choy, E. A., Mahmud, W. A., & Latif, R. A. (2013). Tracing the Diffusion of Internet in Malaysia: Then and Now. Asian Social Science ASS, 9(6), 9-15.

This paper aims to trace diffusion of internet in Malaysia from 1995 until 2013 by evaluating the impacts of various government initiatives, such as the National Public Policy Workshop. The authors also provide charts that break down data on internet access and use.

Keywords: internet penetration, internet policy, ICT




Internet penetration in Myanmar is appallingly low, at roughly 2% according to Freedom House’s Freedom on the Net report, and internet conditions in Myanmar have fluctuated as politics have become more liberal or repressive. Research on Myanmar’s internet is scant, perhaps due to its low penetration, and focuses primarily on connectivity rather than citizen internet use and internet regulations.


Calderaro, A. (2014). Digitalizing Myanmar: Connectivity Developments in Political Transitions. Internet Policy Observatory.

This paper explores connectivity developments in Myanmar, paying particular attention to the opening of the mobile market to international companies, the launch of the new national telecom law, and the development of policies securing digital rights.

Keywords: internet policy, connectivity, ICT




Singapore is a wealthy country with a robust ICT sector and fairly high internet penetration at 82% of households. Most of the research focuses on restrictions on free speech online, particularly political speech, while up to date research on internet policy and ICT is scarce.


Tan, S. E. (2011). ‘Harmless’ and ‘Hump-less’ political podcasts: Censorship and internet resistance in Singapore. Music, Sound, and the Moving Image, 5(1), 39-66.

This article discusses internet activism and satire in Singapore during the 2006 elections. The author first describes censorship in Singapore and then provides a detailed account of political podcasts during the elections as well as the government’s reaction.

Keywords: censorship, politics, internet activism


Singapore. (2016).
Freedom House’s Freedom on the Net report provides the most up to date information on Singapore’s internet regulations and infrastructure. Ranked “partly free,” Singapore does not actively block any social media or news outlets, but has penalized citizens who criticize the government online.

Keywords: censorship, ICT, internet policy


South Korea


South Korea has one of the world’s highest broadband and smartphone penetration rates and boasts some of the region’s most advanced internet infrastructure. However, South Korea also has stricter censorship than most other developed countries due to its history of military dictatorships and long standing conflict with North Korea. While research on South Korea’s internet is fairly comprehensive in scope much of it is likely outdated (there is minimal research about South Korea’s internet from this decade).


Chung, J. (2008). Comparing online activities in China and South Korea: The Internet and the political regime.

By comparing major online activities in China and South Korea, this article analyzes how the leaders of China and South Korea have influenced the use of the internet and how the internet has made it possible for individuals and groups to have their views reflected in policy making processes.

Keywords: politics, internet policy, censorship

Fish, E. (2009). Is Internet Censorship Compatible with Democracy? Legal Restrictions of Online Speech in South Korea. Asia-Pacific Journal on Human Rights and the Law, 10(2), 43-96.

            This paper examines the history and causes of Internet censorship in South Korea, with special focus on the tension between South Korea’s democratic political identity and its willingness to tolerate significant censorship of online political speech.

Keywords: censorship, internet policy, politics, freedom of expression


Lee, C., & Chan-Olmsted, S. M. (2004). Competitive advantage of broadband Internet: a comparative study between South Korea and the United States. Telecommunications Policy, 28(9), 649-677.

This article compares broadband infrastructure and telecommunications technologies in South Korea and the United States, arguing that developmental differences in infrastructure may stem from differences in governmental policy and consumer demand. The authors provide detailed summaries of relevant internet regulation legislation in both countries to demonstrate these differences.

Keywords: internet policy, ICT, internet regulation




Research on Thailand’s internet governance is fairly comprehensive and up to date relative to other Southeast Asian countries, however there have been no substantial works published since the 2014 coup, which has led to further repression of online speech in Thailand.


Sinpeng, A. (2013). State Repression in Cyberspace: The Case of Thailand. Asian Politics & Policy, 5(3), 421-440.

This article analyzes Thailand’s internet regime through measuring its regulatory, institutional, infrastructural, and ideational dimensions. The author argues that the Thai state will continue to employ repression online as long as the benefits outweigh the costs for political elites.

Keywords: censorship, internet policy, politics


Magpanthong, C. (2013). Thailand’s evolving Internet policies: the search for a balance between national security and the right to information. Asian Journal Of Communication, 23(1), 1-16.

Covering the Computer Cyber Crime Act, lèse majesté laws, and the 2006 coup, this paper explores the tensions between national security and freedom of communication and information in Thailand.

Keywords: censorship, internet policy, politics




Although Vietnam is notorious for jailing bloggers and prohibiting free speech on the web, there is very little scholarly research on censorship in Vietnam. Much of the research focuses on internet penetration, which is incredibly unequal as young, urban and wealthier populations have almost universal access whereas penetration is far lower among rural populations.

Lam, D., Boymal, J., & Martin, B. (2004). Internet diffusion in Vietnam. Technology in Society, 26(1), 39-50.

This technical study employs statistical analysis to explain internet diffusion patterns in Vietnam from 1997-2002. Through reviewing literature and data, the authors attribute Vietnam’s diffusion patterns to infrastructural and socio political developments.

Keywords: ICT, internet penetration, internet policy


Surborg, B. (2009). Is it the ‘Development of Underdevelopment’ All over Again? Internet Development in Vietnam. Globalizations, 6(2), 225-247.

Through analyzing internet inequality in Vietnam, this paper argues that the internet and its pattern of diffusion have contributed to a shift in global economic structures that reduce the importance of the nation state as the main unit of analysis in world systems theory. The paper includes several charts, graphs, and maps about ICTs in Vietnam.

Keywords: ICT, internet penetration, internet policy, globalism