Over the weekend Chinese president Xi Jinping gave a directive to officials to build a Beijing-supervised “security barrier” around its internet.
The instructions for maintaining and policing the internet were delivered after a cybersecurity meeting in China’s capital.
According to state-sponsored media republished by the government, Xi said it was “essential to uphold the Party’s leadership over the internet sector.”
“Work must be done to forge a strong cybersecurity barrier and give full play to the role of information technology as a driving force for development. It is imperative to govern cyberspace, run websites and apps, and carry out online activities according to the law,” said Xi.
In a speech at the event, Cai Qi, Secretariat of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, argued for the strengthening of publicity and guidance online, guarding against ideological domains, strengthening of cyberspace governance and “leadership” over online ideology.
“The Party’s supervision over the internet must be maintained, and its overall leadership over the internet and information technology work strengthened,” Cai stressed.
Like many orders and proclamations out of Beijing, the directives were strong yet vague. Nonetheless, Xi asserted that Chinese Communist Party committees at all levels must work to ensure they are implemented.
“Internet and information technology departments at all levels must be loyal to the Party and the people, shoulder their responsibilities, be innovative and hard-working, and dare to fight cyber terrorism and other illegal acts in cyberspace in a bid to provide strong guarantees for the high-quality development of the internet and information technology work,” Xi said.
The orders indicate that China’s internet could become even more isolated. The term “security barrier” is reminiscent of the so-called “Great Firewall” – a term used to describe the myriad legislative actions and technologies regulating the internet in and around the Middle Kingdom. The Great Firewall ensures, among other things, censorship and limited access to any foreign media service or entity that may not be aligned with Party values.
Many foreign organizations have found it difficult to navigate the constant onslaught of regulations coming from Beijing. LinkedIn, Google, Meta and Zoom are all part of a growing list of businesses that have turned their backs on Xi’s paradise.
Recent regulations from China have also targeted more conventionally unwanted domestic behaviors – such as toxic online fan clubs and opportunistic livestreamers taking money from children.
In late February, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said it cleaned up 54.3 million pieces of information it deemed undesirable in 2022 alone.
According to Alibaba-owned news outlet South China Morning Post, the weekend’s newly announced directions immediately led to the implementation of a week-long anti-rumor campaign from China’s Ministry of Public Security. The campaign includes activating police departments to spread warnings about misinformation.
As part of the campaign, Shanghai police already reported on Chinese social media website Weibo they have targeted 258 people and shut down 460 illegal accounts for violations. Police in Sichuan province reportedly dealt with five individuals and 52 cases of rumormongering and shut down 116 online accounts. ®