By some estimates, there are more than 30,000 people patrolling the Web in China, helping form one of the world's most sophisticated Internet filtering systems.
But while China's huge Internet police force is busy deleting annoying phrases like "free speech" and "human rights," experts say that Wild West capitalism, crime, piracy, pornography and other scourges of the real economy in China have moved into the virtual one.
The Chinese Web is a thriving marketplace for everyone, including scam artists, snake oil sellers and hard core criminals who are only too eager to turn consumers into victims.
Meanwhile, Chinese entrepreneurs who started out brazenly selling pirated music and movies from online storefronts have moved into pushing everything from illegal drugs and sex for hire to firearms, stolen cars and even human organs.
Much of this is happening because Internet use has exploded - there are an estimated 110 million Web surfers in China, second only to the United States. Last year, online-related revenue, which is defined more broadly by Beijing than in the United States, was valued at $69 billion, up about 58 percent from the year before, according to a government survey by the China Internet Development Research Center.
Analysts estimate that by 2010, China could become home to the world's biggest online community, with revenue coming in from advertising, commerce, subscription fees and a rash of illicit services.
The Chinese authorities have vowed to crack down on illegal Web sites and say that more than 2,000 pornographic and gambling sites have been shut down in recent years. But new illicit sites are eluding them every day.
"It's a wild place," Xiao Qiang, director of the China Internet Project at the University of California at Berkeley, said of the Web in China. "Outside of politics, China is as free as anywhere. You can find porn just about anywhere on the Internet."
Using any of China's major search engines, people who type in sensitive political terms like "Tiananmen Square" or "Falun Gong" will most likely see their computers crash or simply offer up a list of heavily censored Web sites. But the words "hot sex" or "illegal drugs" take them to dozens of links to Web sites offering sex videos, sports gambling dens or even heroin. And scams are flourishing.
A sampling of searches in the past week turned up several such sites.
A look-alike site pretending to be part of Industrial & Commercial Bank of China - the country's largest bank - asks visitors to enter their personal account password.
A site that brands itself Honest Company specializes in deception, selling bugging devices, machines to produce fake credit cards and tools that rig casino slot machines.
A pornographic site asks people to pay $2 a month to download videos and chat with other customers while naked.
A site advertises the sale of gamma- hydroxybutyrate, or GHB, a drug that acts as a relaxant and hallucinogenic that reduces inhibitions. Often called a "date rape" drug, it is sold with instructions about how to use it for sexual assaults on unsuspecting women.
This is certainly not Mao's China anymore. Not even Deng Xiaoping's.
Xinhua, the official press agency, even seems to be in on the act. While the top of its news pages displays stories like "China Aims to Achieve Balance of Payments in 2006," the bottom often features links to soft-porn photographs of Chinese movie stars like Gong Li and Zhou Xun.
"The Internet is a reflection of the real world," said Lu Weigang, an analyst at the China Internet Network Information Center in Beijing. "Everything you have in the real world appears on the Internet. Social problems are mentioned, public opinions are posted. And illegal products are for sale."
Countless Web sites peddle sex toys, police weapons, pepper spray and even machines that allow you to siphon electricity away from power lines. One eBay user in China this week offered to put up for auction his or her kidney and liver for $100,000. When contacted Monday, eBay said that selling human organs was forbidden on its site and deleted the entry.