In Beijing this week, a senior-level meeting on internet policy pledged that 2016 would be a “year of innovation.” But this wasn’t about breakthroughs in technologies or services — the objective was information control, plain and simple.
Held on January 5 and 6, the National Online Propaganda Work Conference (全国网络宣传工作会议) was attended by officials from the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) — the agency now taking charge of internet censorship directly under President Xi Jinping’s Office of the Central Leading Group for Cyberspace Affairs —the various CAC regional offices, and the heads of central-level internet sites such as People’s Daily Online.
According to state media reports, the conference focussed on the need to “innovate” the concepts driving “online propaganda work.” The ultimate goal was to “further seek out and improve the socialism with Chinese characteristics internet management path, so that the positions of the Chinese Communist Party become the strongest voice in the online space.”
Searching Chinese news archives going back several years, I find no previous reference to this phrase, “the socialism with Chinese characteristics internet management path” (中国特色社会主义治网之道). Under Xi Jinping — and his powerful internet czar, Lu Wei — China seems far more confident in asserting, without apology, its regime of internet censorship as a matter of national sovereignty.
Could we be witnessing, with this talk of unique “internet management path,” the birth of a new Party watchword? The buzzwords of the Chinese Communist Party come and go, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
Meanwhile, here is how the official People’s Daily writes about the National Online Propaganda Work Conference today. We should note that the piece concludes the list of must-do’s for internet propaganda officials with the need to “use Chinese claims and Chinese proposals to direct changes to the global system of internet governance.”
“Letting the Positions of the Party Become the Strongest Voices in the Online Space” (让党的主张成为网络空间最强音)
People’s Daily / January 7, 2016, page 04
The National Online Propagaganda Work Conference, held on January 5 and 6, emphasised that 2016 will be a “year of innovation” for the Cyberspace Administration of China, [in which it] must energetically promote comprehensive innovation of the concepts, content, methods and team-building necessary for online propaganda work, further exploring and improving the socialism with Chinese characteristics internet management path, so that the positions of the Chinese Communist Party become the strongest voice in the online space, so that there is strong online public opinion support for the opening strides of the 13th Five Year Plan.
Since the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, there have been further improvements in the online ecology. The [Party’s] main theme has been louder and clearer, positive energy more abundant, and the online space has been clearer and brighter. There has been positive development in terms of the overall synchronisation of the online public opinion ecology with the full circumstance of the Party and the nation. Studies have indicated that 80.1 percent of internet users believe there has been a clear improvement in the online public opinion environment; 78 percent of internet users believe the outlook for a civilised web (网络文明) has improved; 85.6 percent of internet users believe that online positive energy information (网络正能量信息) has steadily increased; and 90.6 percent of internet users are full of confidence about the healthy development of our country’s internet.
The conference pointed out that since the 18th National Congress, President Xi Jinping’s series of important speeches systematically described a series of major theoretical and practical issues relating to internet development and governance, and raised a series of new ideas, new concepts and new judgements, drawing a magnificent blueprint for the building of a strong internet nation (网络强国).
The conference demanded that the national CAC network focus principally on adequately executing the following tasks in 2016: deepening online propaganda on the basis of the new ideas, new concepts and new strategies of the Central Committee of the CCP as set out by Comrade Xi Jinping as general secretary, so that the theoretical innovations and practical achievements of the Party become the lofty main tone and main theme of the online space; increasing the strength of positive propaganda online, surrounding the center and in service of the overall situation, creating a public opinion climate to enable victory in the creation of a society of comprehensive moderate wealth. Fully leveraging websites, online social organisations and internet users, achieving comprehensive [internet] management through multiparty execution of policies; comprehensively promoting rule by law in the online space, working to build and improve the rule by law system in the online space; using Chinese claims and Chinese proposals to direct changes to the global system of internet governance (用中国主张、中国方案引领全球网络治理体系变革).