The Cyberspace Administration of China announced after a two-day work conference this week that making the views of the country’s ruling Communist Party the “strongest voice in cyberspace” is its top priority for 2016. From Xinhua News:
The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) discussed cyberspace publicity work on Tuesday and Wednesday, with a statement issued after the talks promising continued exploration and improvements to the governance of cyberspace with Chinese socialist characteristics.
[…] Internet regulators were told to improve the publicity of the new thoughts and concepts of the governance of the CPC central leadership with Xi Jinping as general secretary of the CPC Central Committee.
It also called for more work to be done to improve cyberspace governance, with measures to ensure global cyberspace governance meshed with Chinese opinions and plans.
The CAC said the online environment had improved over the past three years, with louder mainstream opinions and clearer environment. [Source]
China Media Project’s David Bandurski translated the People’s Daily report on the National Online Propaganda Work Conference, and highlighted the novel phrase “socialism with Chinese characteristics internet management path” (rendered by Xinhua as “governance of cyberspace with Chinese socialist characteristics”):
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.
[…] 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). [Source]
The move is part of the Xi administration’s broader efforts to actualize the idea of “Internet sovereignty” and tighten its control of the Chinese cyberspace, according to John Ruwitch at Reuters:
Chinese President Xi Jinping has championed a vision for cyberspace in which Internet ‘sovereignty’ rests in the hands of nations that can control the flow of information and fence off certain online content as they please.
Since Xi took China’s helm in early 2013, he has presided over a centralisation of domestic Internet governance and broader efforts to control and often censor information online, experts say. Those efforts are aimed at maintaining stability, seen by the ruling Communist Party as a critical pillar of its rule.
This year the administration would strive to “let the party’s achievements in theoretical innovation and practical accomplishments become the highly held main tone and key themes in cyberspace”, it said in a statement posted on its website late on Wednesday. [Source]
The plan to amplify the government’s voice in cyberspace is also linked to China’s “Internet Power” strategy, which “promises to deliver significant state support to the nation’s domestic technology industry while also seeking to influence global Internet governance and opinion.” Scott D. Livingston at China File explains how the Chinese government’s conception of Internet Power is associated with national security and economic growth:
In his inaugural address to the Cybersecurity Leading Group, President Xi linked cybersecurity with national security and development, noting “there is no national security without cybersecurity, and no modernization without informatization.” A commentary posted on the CAC website supported this vision, stating that “cybersecurity is an important foundation to realizing the Internet Power dream.”
[…] China’s desire to become an Internet Power also has a significant economic component. As China seeks to transition its economy away from investment-led growth toward growth fueled by consumption, the Party has recognized that Internet Power may be the nation’s best hope of ensuring sustained economic growth and national prestige.
This hope includes the recently introduced concept of “Internet Plus,” which seeks to promote Internet technologies such as big data and cloud computing as a means to transform and upgrade traditional industries. In July, the State Council published an Internet Plus Action Plan that calls for greater adoption of cloud computing, the mobile Internet, big data, and the Internet of Things, and asks Chinese Internet companies to increase their international presence. This plan is augmented by the “Made in China 2025” plan, which seeks to promote advanced technologies to help turn China into a “green and innovative” world manufacturing power in the next decade. [Source]
At The New York Times, Paul Mozur reports on a new initiative to support this goal with the creation of a $30 billion industry fund:
Official accounts of the fund did not make clear precisely how the money would be spent. But given the recent weakness in Chinese manufacturing and lower-end electronics manufacturers, it may be intended as a form of stimulus to the tech industry. The terminology used in media accounts signals China’s bold technology ambitions. Reports about the new fund said it would be used to build a “strong manufacturing country” and an “Internet power.”
[…] The fund will be created through a partnership between an industry group controlled by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and Ping An Bank. Signaling the importance of the initiative, the signing ceremony was held at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, which is often used to host visiting dignitaries, and was attended by representatives of many of China’s largest technology companies, including Lenovo and Alibaba, according to an official release.
[…] While China’s largest hardware brands and booming Internet companies tend to attract media attention, the country also has huge numbers of companies that support the electronics supply chain. With low margins and inconsistent orders, many are highly exposed to slowdowns in the worldwide demand for electronics. [Source]
The Wall Street Journal reported this week that electronics assembly giant Foxconn is receiving $12 million in subsidies from the city of Zhengzhou to minimize layoffs following a decline in iPhone orders.