This paper is mainly a discussion of the interactions between private entrepreneurs and the Chinese authorities in the Internet sector. The implications for civil society in China are also discussed. A hybrid approach, examining the clientelist-corporatist nexus, is employed to re-examine the interactions between private Internet elites and the Chinese government. It is suggested in this article that civil society, in the wake of the rise of private Internet entrepreneurs, is constrained by the government's proactive control over the Net and the immature socio- and politico-economic environment. The argument is that the Internet has a strong potential to transform the Chinese state, but this ultimately depends upon how the digital media are used.