Last week, Chinese and foreign news media—including CDT—covered the announcement by the Ministry of Public Security that “network security officers” would be stationed in Internet companies to help “monitor” their work. On Medium, David Bandurski of China Media Project adds context and history to the announcement, and explains that the program is not new but has been in place since 2010 as one method among many to censor Internet content:
The obvious question arising from that context: Given the PSB’s historic involvement in information controls in China, how are these “cybersecurity police units” actually new?
And once we’ve asked that question, the answer comes back simply enough, without even the need to get insiders on the telephone. They aren’t new at all. We can find close to 50 articles on these so-called wang’an jingwushi in China’s own media over the past four years.
As far as I can ascertain from Chinese-language news databases, the first instance of “cybersecurity police units” appeared in Jinan, the capital of Shandong province, on December 31, 2010 — nearly a full two years, incidentally, before Xi Jinping became general secretary.
[…] In the world of daily news, 2010 may be ancient history. But if it’s context that interests us, 2010 is an important year for the internet in China. Remember Google’s high-profile exit from China? Yeah, that was 2010. And China made the point in 2010 more emphatically than ever before that internet companies were welcome to do business in China, on condition that they operate “according to the law,” opening up their services to government and police scrutiny. [Source]