Cables Discuss Vast Hacking by a China That Fears the Web

The New York Times has more details from the Wikileaks cables about what U.S. diplomats believed were official government attitudes toward Google and the Internet in general. Among the messages transmitted in the cable was the story that the hacking attack on Google a year ago may have been prompted by Li Changchun, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee and the country’s senior propaganda official, who Googled himself and found some unflattering information:

The demands on Google went well beyond removing material on subjects like the Dalai Lama or the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Chinese officials also put pressure on the United States government to censor the Google Earth satellite imaging service by lowering the resolution of images of Chinese government facilities, warning that Washington could be held responsible if terrorists used that information to attack government or military facilities, the cables show. An American diplomat replied that Google was a private company and that he would report the request to Washington but that he had no sense about how the government would act.

Yet despite the hints of paranoia that appear in some cables, there are also clear signs that Chinese leaders do not consider the Internet an unstoppable force for openness and democracy, as some Americans believe.

In fact, this spring, around the time of the Google pullout, China’s State Council Information Office delivered a triumphant report to the leadership on its work to regulate traffic online, according to a crucial Chinese contact cited by the State Department in a cable in early 2010, when contacted directly by The Times.

The message delivered by the office, the person said, was that “in the past, a lot of officials worried that the Web could not be controlled.”

“But through the Google incident and other increased controls and surveillance, like real-name registration, they reached a conclusion: the Web is fundamentally controllable,” the person said.

See also “Chinese leaders ordered Google hack, U.S. cable quotes source as saying” from the Washington Post and “WikiLeaks Cables Show a China Obsessed with, Afraid of the Internet” from Yahoo News.

Read more about Wikileaks and China via CDT.

December 4, 2010 11:25 PM
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