Chinese Web portals and US-based Yahoo bow to Hu’s “Eight Honors” policy and call for a “civilized” Chinese Internet

Kowtowing to Chinese President Hu Jintao’s most recent policy statement calling for a campaign of moral rectification at all levels of Chinese society, fourteen leading Web portals in the Chinese market, including US-based Yahoo, issued a joint proposal on April 9 for a “civilized” Internet, free of so-called false and indecent content. While the statement was much more about political posturing and pandering to Leftist elements within the Party, the underlying message was a continued committment to Internet censorship.

The Internet firms signing the proposal included Yahoo, Sina.com、Sohu.com, Netease, Tom.com,China.com, search engine Baidu.com, YNET (北青网), Zhongsou (中国搜索网), Xilu (西陆网), Xici (西祠胡同网), Hexun (和讯网), and Daqi (大旗网).

State media predictably hailed the united front as a major breakthrough for social morals in the country and a key component of Hu Jintao’s vision of a “Harmonious Society”. Beijing Youth Daily put the headline in bold directly under its frontpage banner: “14 Websites Propose Civilized Operation of the Web”. A subhead directly below pointed readers to an editorial in Beijing Daily, the official mouthpiece of top city leaders in the capital, which said: “We believe that through the united effort of society, and with the continued cleansing of the online environment, the idea of operating and using the Web in a civilized way will become the dominant practice. The Internet will then truly become an important place for publicizing scientific theory, broadcasting advanced culture, creating beautiful spirits, promoting all that is just and honorable in society and correctly guiding public opinion” [Editorial here].

The reference to “correct guidance of public opinion”, a key buzzword for state media control, linked the joint proposal unambiguously with the state’s overall project of Internet censorship.

China’s propaganda apparatus has gone into overdrive to tout Hu Jintao’s latest campaign of moral rectification since the leader made a speech on “Socialist honor and disgrace” before delegates to the Chinese Political Consultative Conference on March 4. The latest state buzzword, “Eight Honors and Eight Disgraces” (八荣八耻) has risen rapidly through the ranks of the Party’s ideological lexicon.

On March 6, China’s top propaganda official, politburo member Li Changchun, called on all levels of Chinese society to implement the “spirit” of Hu Jintao’s policy speech in order to “form the stable moral basis for a Socialist harmonious society”. [Coverage of Li speech here].

The joint proposal called on Web portals in China to self-consciously operate with the goal of creating a “healthy and civilized online culture”. Specific measures included rigorous self-censorship, standardizing of content production, and strengthening professional ethics among Web employees.

[Posted by Samantha Wang and David Bandurski, April 11, 2006, 12:19pm]

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