Minitrue: Web Access at World Internet Conference

The following instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online. The name of the issuing body has been omitted to protect the source.

The provides special internet services to the conference area. All media must uniformly refrain from reporting, re-posting, and commenting [on this]. (November 2, 2018) [Chinese]

This directive was issued ahead of China’s fifth World Internet Conference, which concludes today in Wuzhen, Zhejiang. The directive aimed at limiting coverage of an irony that captured the attention of foreign journalists and others attending last year’s event:

Earlier this week, CDT translated a leaked censorship directive prohibiting media from live-streaming the conference, and from focusing on lavish WIC-sideline dinner parties or the clothing worn by internet firm “big shots,” topics that in previous years attracted domestic coverage. During last year’s event, a directive forbade content “attacking” the conference, specifically flagging several netizen-generated nicknames highlighting irony in the fact that China, a country where access to the world wide web is limited by the Great Firewall, is hosting a “World Internet Conference.” Ahead of this year’s conference, New America’s Pail Triolo also examined whether the global title of the annual event is warranted, given its previous use as a “political podium” for the Xi administration to present their idea of “cyberspace sovereignty.”

Bloomberg News notes that former keynote attendees Xi Jinping and Alibaba’s Jack Ma were absent this year, and reminded readers that WIC mastermind and former cyberczar Lu Wei was expelled from the Party and indicted on corruption charges, and recently pled guilty for bribery.

At the Financial Times, Yuan Yang and Nian Liu report another characteristic absence at this year’s World Internet Conference: officials from Silicon Valley firms:

The annual gathering near Shanghai is pitched as an opportunity for Beijing to showcase its tech prowess. In previous years, China has made much of the attendance of Silicon Valley leaders such as Apple chief executive Tim Cook and Google boss Sundar Pichai.

But this year’s event is being held against the backdrop of a fierce trade war between Washington and Beijing, that is largely being fought over American allegations of technology and intellectual property theft by Chinese companies. US officials are also concerned by the prospect of China establishing its dominance in key sectors such as 5G, the next generation of wireless technology, and artificial intelligence.

Steve Mollenkopf, chief executive of Qualcomm, the US chipmaker that relies heavily on the Chinese market, was the only foreign executive to speak at the opening ceremony, where he praised his hosts for carrying “an important message” and echoed President Xi Jinping’s idea of a “shared future in cyber space”. [Source]

The South China Morning Post earlier noted that four U.S. firms were the only non-Chinese companies on a list of 15 “World Leading Internet Scientific and Technological Achievements” released at the conference opening.

The FT’s Yuan Yang shared further observations of the WIC on Twitter, including the last-minute announcement that most conference sessions were invite only and closed to the media:

真Since directives are sometimes communicated orally to journalists and editors, who then leak them online, the wording published here may not be exact. Some instructions are issued by local authorities or to specific sectors, and may not apply universally across China. The date given may indicate when the directive was leaked, rather than when it was issued. CDT does its utmost to verify dates and wording, but also takes precautions to protect the source. See CDT’s collection of Directives from the Ministry of Truth