According to reports from China Times, the highest authority controlling all of the CCP's foreign propaganda, the International Communication Office of the Central Committee has set up a new internet communication department to manage internet communications. This organization's authority is higher than the Internet Bureau of the State Council Information Office, indicating that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has realized the rapidly increasing and widespread influence of the internet. This has become a threat to the authorities' major propaganda means via television.
By the third quarter of 2006, internet users in China have topped 137 million. These internet users are primarily aged from 18 to 24, making up 35.2 percent of the total population. Students are still the main users of the internet at 32.3 percent. The internet is becoming the most important platform for information dissemination.
According to China Times reports, at the 38th study session of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee held on January 23, Hu Jintao made a speech titled “Strengthening Internet Culture Development and Management with an Innovative Spirit”. He said that proper internet management “Concerns the safety of China's cultural information and state stability”.
At present, mainland China manages its internet mainly through departments such as propaganda, culture, industrial and commerce, public security etc. Every department develops appropriate policies from its own perspective and responsibilities. In spite of this, due to a lack of coordination and also because these departments are mostly at the bureau level, there is a need for a specialized department at a higher level to carry out centralized control.
Analysts say that judging from recent actions of the authorities, strengthening its media and control over the internet are the current focus of the CCP. With the 17th Party Congress scheduled for the second half of this year the following are believed to be just the beginning of a series of controls:
- the ban on books such as Zhang Yihe's Past Stories of Some Peking Opera Stars
- orders given by the State administration of radio, film and TV to air TV serials that present China in a positive way during prime time viewing hours
In recent years, the CCP has spent a substantial amount of manpower, materials and finances:
- setting up internet police, internet automatic surveillance systems, and internet server intrusion detection devices
- requesting internet service providers to “exercise self control” e.g. yahoo, google
- implanting a trojan horse virus into users' computers to search for information
- establishing a database of key phrases, censorship, etc.
China's Ministry of State Security, Public Security and Electronic Communications Department, had once worked together to set up the Golden Shield Project and even lured top notch electronics experts from the US Silicon Valley with lucrative salary packages.