Wandering China

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China lets slip its web control strategy [The Age]


”China has this goal of establishing a Chinese intranet, removing China from the global internet, and you can see that in this report,’‘ Anne-Marie Brady, expert on China’s propaganda system at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.

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China lets slip its web control strategy
JOHN GARNAUT, BEIJING
Source – The Age, published July 14, 2010

THE Chinese Communist Party has detailed its ambitious but secretive strategy for transforming the internet into a force to keep it in power and project ”soft power” abroad.

An internal speech by China’s top internet official, apparently posted by accident on an official website before being promptly removed, outlines a vast array of institutions and methods to control opinion at home and ”create an international public opinion environment that is objective, beneficial and friendly to us”.

”Those efforts provided powerful public opinion support for unifying thinking, consolidating strength, assisting in our diplomatic battles, and safeguarding our national interests,” said Wang Chen, who is deputy director of the Propaganda Department, head of external (foreign) propaganda and also director of the State Council’s Information Office.

Mr Wang’s speech was made to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on April 29 and posted on the congress’s website on May 4, before being removed, heavily sanitised and reposted on a more mainstream government website the next day.

It was picked up by Human Rights in China and included in a report it released yesterday, China’s Internet: Staking Digital Ground.

”China has this goal of establishing a Chinese intranet, removing China from the global internet, and you can see that in this report,” said Anne-Marie Brady, an expert on China’s propaganda system at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.

”The average Chinese person knows basically how the propaganda system works but there’s no need to advertise so blatantly what the government is doing,” she said, explaining why large sections of the original speech were quickly deleted. Rather than shut down China to the outside world, the Communist Party has maintained its authoritarian rule in the information age by vastly expanding its propaganda apparatus and modernising its methods and messages.

The country’s 400 million internet users are ”guided” towards government-friendly information and away from ”harmful” content but can nevertheless spread information far more easily than previous generations.

Mr Wang said the internet ”has increased the government’s capabilities in social management” but also brought new subversive threats. ”As long as our country’s internet is linked to the global internet, there will be channels and means for all sorts of harmful foreign information to appear on our domestic internet,” he said.

He outlined how the party had used internet platforms to ”markedly strengthen” its capability to promote messages overseas. ”These foreign-language channels are becoming an important force in countering the hegemony of Western media and in bolstering our country’s soft power,” he said.

The Chinese Communist Party’s ”Great Firewall” blocks most overseas Chinese-language websites and many foreign-language overseas sites, while local internet companies are required to vigilantly screen and censor content.

A vast force of official censors, commercial operators and informal opinion leaders – derisively labelled as China’s ”50-cent” army for the fees they receive per posting – are also deployed to push the government line.

The Human Rights in China report highlighted the different messages that the Communist Party communicates about the internet to its citizens, to foreigners and to itself.

”The Chinese authorities view the most intrinsic values and role of the internet – as a vehicle for the unprecedented spread of information and knowledge across national boundaries – as dangers to be strategically tackled and managed,” the report said.

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Filed under: Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Communications, Culture, Domestic Growth, Human Rights, Influence, International Relations, Media, Politics

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