In a microblog post yesterday, Hu Xijin (胡锡进), the editor-in-chief of the Global Times newspaper, voiced outrage at the accusations of widespread hacking made by Google against China. He suggested that China too has suffered unconscionable online attacks, and that China’s government, rather than remaining quiet, should speak up about these issues — thereby shutting the mouths of China’s detractors in the West.
Hu Xijin’s microblog post has apparently been transformed into the lead editorial of today’s Global Times. In it, the paper slams Google as a “snotty-nosed” crybaby blaming China for these supposed attacks because it remains bitter about the company’s business failures in China.
But the piece also has strong words for China’s government, urging again that the authorities tackle these and other accusations — including those surrounding artist Ai Weiwei (艾未未) — directly, actively “setting the agenda” and ensuring Western media have less opportunity to “blacken” China’s image. With its talk of “grabbing discursive power” (争夺话语权), the editorial also recalls Chinese President Hu Jintao’s media policy of more active “public opinion channeling” (舆论引导).
After paragraphs bristling with anger, the editorial turns (almost bizarrely, I think) into a call for greater openness of information in China, on the premise that China’s government has nothing whatsoever to hide.
Need I say more?
“Transparency of Information is China’s Constant Direction” (信息透明是中国的不二方向)
June 3, 2011
Google has once again announced that its Gmail service has suffered an attack originating in Jinan [the capital of China’s Jilin province], and in this accusation, which professionals immediately find tiresome, Google has shown itself as an Internet giant to be incredibly naive. On its list of victims, Google has placed in particular — aside from high-level American government officials, Asian diplomats and military personnel — “Chinese political activists.” This [addition] suits the outside world’s image of China’s government as a government that would “do anything to ensure stability preservation.” And [the accusation] might easily gain the support of a few in China who understand little about the internet and are accustomed to reading politics into everything.
We don’t know exactly how many attacks “originating in China” Google might have suffered, but in the unordered world of the web, it is perhaps unavoidable that Google should suffer a large number of attacks. This is the real price for “standing at the summit” of the internet. Moreover, an attack from an IP address in China does not necessarily mean the attacker must really be in China. And if it turns out they are in China, the operation is not necessarily being directed by Chinese people or the Chinese government. These principles are as simple as ABC for internet experts, but Google is always weeping snotty-nosed, pulling the wool over the eyes of everyone in the world who doesn’t understand how IP addresses work.
In the internet world there is a saying: that those hackers who are really and truly good at what they do are uncatchable, and those who are caught are all small-time offenders. But it’s not just Google. Western politicians have persistently declared that they have suffered online attacks “originating in China,” and in broader public opinion this suggestion [that attacks have] “originated in China” has borne a serious implication, which is clearly that these attacks are being perpetrated by Chinese people, and moreover under the direction of China’s government.
All of this is perhaps not worth getting all incensed about, because the Western media have always been this way. What we must ask, though, is this: Where have China’s relevant [government] departments run off to in all of this? Every day, China receives so many online attacks from outside the country, and some government officials have had their computers manipulated, resulting in serious breaches of secrecy. Some officials have for this reason been punished [for breach of secrecy]. But why is it that China has never made its own experiences public, but just sits there quietly enduring rebuke from foreign countries. A person who has constantly suffered theft at the hands of others is made out to be an infamous pirate!
Perhaps out of pent up fury with its lack of business success in China, Google wants to do battle with the Chinese government. In accusing China of online spying, Western politicians hope to make known their refusal to give in to China. For them, blackening the face of China is something they do willy-nilly, like spending loose pocket change.
But China’s caution in rebuking others is as though we live in the ideal “Republic” described by Plato.
We can rebuke others, but even more we should reflect on ourselves. Lack of transparency of information has become a habit with us, and knuckling under (低调) [or keeping a low profile] has perhaps become our strategy for dealing with anything of a sensitive nature. Everyone knows this is an age for grabbing discursive power (争夺话语权) and [drawing] eyes and ears, and silence often means acquiescence. If you do not take the initiative in setting the agenda, you will be afflicted by the agenda others set. China, whose miracles have surprised the world and who has acted justly and moderately toward the outside world, is again and again spoken of as a country “both big and bad” (又大又坏).
In April this year police in China detained Ai Weiwei, a matter falling entirely within the scope of China’s judicial sovereignty. But why could relevant Chinese departments not quickly make an announcement of this? Why did they have to give Western media hours and hours of time in which to blacken China? They described the detained Ai Weiwei as “missing” (失踪), and this word has been burned deep into Western public opinion, to this day still being used. Who knows how much energy it will cost us to erase the influence of this word.
China is an aboveboard nation. We have our problems, we have made mistakes, but a few flaws cannot obscure the splendor of the jade. It is entirely within our ability to broadly open up the affairs of our nation, because our national objectives can withstand criticism. There is no shame in showing the process of our advancement before others. There is no need for us to hide anything. Many of our documents can become open reports.
We know achieving openness of information is a process. But we must step firmly into the future. This is the overarching trend of the information age, and it is also the constant direction of enlightened politics in China.