The following instructions were posted online.
To all provincial, autonomous regional, and municipal Party committee Cyberspace Administrations, and that of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC):
In accordance with comprehensive arrangements for the 2023 “Clear and Bright” series of special actions, the central Cyberspace Administration has resolved to implement a three-month nationwide special operation: “Clear and Bright: Optimizing a Business-Friendly Online Environment to Protect Companies’ Legitimate Rights and Interests.”
Under the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, particularly General Secretary Xi Jinping’s important thinking on national cyberpower, comprehensively implement the spirit of the 20th Party Congress and Central Economic Work Conference to thoroughly clean up and punish false, inaccurate, or rights-infringing information about private enterprises and entrepreneurs; resolutely crack down on malicious speculation; in accordance with the law, investigate and prosecute online platforms and accounts that infringe on the legitimate rights and interests of private enterprises and entrepreneurs; and foster an atmosphere of positive online public opinion so that companies may focus on their core business and continue to grow and develop free of distraction.
Focus on reining in the following 10 kinds of online disorder:
1. Opening of websites, registration of accounts, launch of apps or mini-apps that mimic or counterfeit others’ business names, registered trademarks, branding, etc.
2. Using methods such as “[negative] labeling,” “mass incitement,” or “putting someone under a magnifying glass” to maliciously spread ideas about private enterprises supposedly “betraying the country” or “withdrawing from the market” or about “SOEs advancing while the private sector retreats,” in order to exaggerate conflict and stir up opposition between the state-owned economy and the private sector.
3. Leaking corporate secrets, fabricating gossip about entrepreneurs’ private lives, hyping entrepreneurs’ personal secrets, or leaking entrepreneurs’ personal information including biometric data, medical histories, financial accounts, movements and whereabouts, home addresses, I.D. card numbers, or phone numbers.
4. Misappropriating the identity of an enterprise or entrepreneur to engage in illegal activities, fraudulently using an entrepreneur’s name or likeness, etc.
5. Disrupting normal business operations through such methods as using “clickbait” to distort the news, taking entrepreneurs’ comments out of context, or one-sidedly interpreting corporate financial reports.
6. Including false or inaccurate information about enterprises or entrepreneurs in related keywords, relevant searches, or trending topics.
7. Engaging in fraudulent or illegal online activities or online recruitment for “black PR” under the guise of “hiring for concurrent online jobs,” “recruiting writers,” “marketing,” “reputation management PR services [to counter negative public opinion],” “paid post deletion,” etc.
8. After maliciously compiling negative business information, seeking to gain illegal benefit, or publishing negative reports or commentary on an enterprise or entrepreneur, offering to delete negative posts or clear up a client’s reputation in exchange for financial or material compensation, a cut of their advertising business, a business collaboration, etc.
9. Carrying out malicious marketing, smearing or hyping hot-button issues, and launching massive, cross-platform malicious attacks against enterprises or entrepreneurs.
10. Leveraging one’s own publishing capabilities, technological superiority, online traffic, or online influence to fabricate and spread false or misleading information in order to discredit and attack one’s competitors.
1) Improve ideological awareness. This special operation’s strong policy alignment, broad scope, and high public profile requires elevating its political status, amply recognizing the major significance of this work, upholding [the ideal of] one unified nationwide web, and a unified national strategy for the web. Implementation should not be formalistic or superficial, nor clouded by personal preferences or preconceptions. The clean-up and resolution should be carried out in a reliable, orderly, and thorough-going manner.
2) Strengthen work mechanisms. Establish special work teams, optimize workflows, and proactively assemble and deal with illegal information regarding local enterprises and entrepreneurs. Report case leads and information violations that require transregional prosecution to the CAC’s offense-reporting center. Report accounts, apps, etc. within your jurisdiction that require legal punishment to the CAC’s Comprehensive Network Administration Bureau.
3) Initiate work supervision. Direct websites and platforms to efficiently handle leads passed on by Cyberspace Administration departments. Increase supervisory intensity, and track and evaluate the timeliness and quality of work by websites and platforms within your jurisdiction. Websites and platforms that fail to comply will be held strictly accountable.
4) Strengthen publicity exposure. Effectively publicize news of the special operation, promptly report on work progress and results, and respond to public concerns. Highlight typical cases of illegal violations that harm the business-friendly online environment, and pass on details of serious suspected violations to Public Security agencies for handling in accordance with the law to foster a strong deterrent effect.
CAC Secretariat, April 24, 2023 [Chinese]
These instructions were published by the national-level Cyberspace Administration of China on WeChat this week. The CAC signaled the initiative a month previously following pledges of support for private enterprise by incoming premier Li Qiang. South China Morning Post’s Ben Jiang reported on the campaign’s context on Friday:
Chinese nationalism has risen over the past decade, and business executives in the private sector – who often have significant operations overseas – have frequently found themselves on the receiving end of online abuse.
For example Sima Nan, an ultra-leftist influencer, made unsubstantiated allegations against Lenovo and its founder Liu Chuanzhi concerning the siphoning off state assets for months before his social media accounts were shut down by authorities in August 2022.
The Chinese internet regulator’s special drive also occurs as the country’s leaders attempt to shore up a Covid-battered economy and restore confidence to the private sector, including property and internet companies, which have been reeling under regulatory and economic headwinds. [Source]
Also this week, the CAC released a report on the importance of China’s $7.25 trillion-dollar digital economy to driving national modernization.
Another signal of Beijing’s current keenness to support business came from state tabloid Global Times via China’s consul general in Belfast last month. Zhang Meifang shared a graphic juxtaposing a warm welcome for Apple CEO Tim Cook in China with the performative grilling given to TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew by a U.S. congressional committee amid threats of an American ban on the popular video app. CEOs of the dozens of Western companies whose products are already blocked in China, including the platform on which Zhang shared the image, were not pictured.
— Zhang Meifang张美芳 (@CGMeifangZhang) March 27, 2023
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 since 2011.