From Glenn Greenwald, in an interview with Noam Sheizaf of Haaretz:
The promise of the Internet was that it would liberate people and bolster democracy, but it has become a tool for suppression and control. In fact, it is one of the most powerful instruments of control ever invented. The most essential challenge we face today is related to the real effect of the Internet. Will it impart power to people and liberate them, or will it impart more strength to the centers of power and help them oversee, control and suppress the population? That is the struggle of our generation, and it has yet to be decided.
In the past, outside of police states, there were practical limits to surveillance simply because people communicated in so many different ways. Today, we're moving toward a world in which virtually all communication is done via a single global digital network. This has obviously empowered individuals in a broad and complex set of ways, but as our lives become more and more dependent on the internet, it has also provided governments with a single point of contact for nearly ubiquitous surveillance. As Glenn says, it's not clear yet which of these forces is more powerful. In China, I'd say the latter. In the United States, probably the former. So far.