Beijing Erodes Free Speech With ‘Civilized Internet’

The CCP wants to take your freedom away
October 28, 2021 Updated: October 31, 2021

News Analysis

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is “civilizing” the internet within its borders and proposing similar crackdowns globally in what should be a wake-up call to people who value their online freedom.

China’s cyberspace regulator is planning to establish a “civilized” internet that reshapes online discourse for more thorough dissemination of CCP propaganda into the daily online browsing of Chinese citizens, according to Zhuang Rongwen, head of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC). This will build China into a “modern socialist society,” according to Zhuang in his Oct. 27 article from the CAC website.

The regime in Beijing not only seeks to entirely regulate content on the Chinese internet, but to influence world internet usage as well, through the promotion of new standards at the United Nations. In early October, the BBC told the UK Parliament that Beijing-led proposals to the U.N. sought to provide the means to “inhibit the flow of international media.” Beijing’s proposed “New IP” would require users to register for internet usage, with governments then being able to deregister nonpreferred users for arbitrary reasons.

Britain’s cyber spy agency, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), also stated that Beijing’s increasing control of the internet, along with the CCP’s abuse of it through IP theft, misinformation, and censorship, threatens to “splinter” the world’s information superhighway.

The CCP apparently wants us to do what it says, not what it does.

Epoch Times Photo
Chinese internet police in an undated photo. (The Epoch Times)

What China innovates in terms of cyber control has global implications, and it’s innovating fast. Internet firms should improve self-discipline, according to Zhuang, with social engineering in the form of promoting “good” role models rather than behaviors such as cyberbullying. CCP cyberbullies, such as the many coordinated Chinese diplomatic accounts on Twitter, are exempt from this.

Zhuang’s article reflected guidelines published in September by China’s State Council, which also promoted the building of a “civilized” internet in which cyberspace would be used for CCP propaganda while increasing the regime’s supervision of news, livestreaming, and other online platforms. The public would assist in the supervision, presumably through snitching to authorities about any perceived infractions by their cyber neighbors. Did a family member just look over your shoulder? Expect a knock on the door.

“Historical nihilism,” which uses history to criticize the CCP’s leading role, and any disputation of the “inevitability” of Chinese socialism, would be shut down in the CCP’s future internet dystopia, making room for the promotion of socialist moral values and model communist workers.

On Oct. 26, the CAC published a draft of updated rules that would prevent banned social media users from reregistering their accounts under a similar name on any platform. This would close what has been a rare escape hatch from the CCP’s increasing online control. The new rules would also require online platforms to display a user’s location on their page, making them easy targets for local police. Did you just post a picture of your favorite boy band? Expect cuffs (the law enforcement kind, not the starched kind).

Domestic users would have to show their city or province, and international users would be required to show their country.

In 2017, China began requiring internet users, including microbloggers and instant messenger users, to verify their identities with a form of ID, mobile phone, and other documentation. These requirements are based on the regime’s 2017 cybersecurity law, which mandates a “clean and healthy” internet, void of not only dissenting political voices, but of celebrity gossip and stock analysis as well. Rock bands are frowned upon—unless they wear the proper (Maoist?) attire and put old communist ideas to new tunes. Party on, comrades.

This fall, the CAC issued guidelines that encouraged online platforms and content managers to increase censorship, including self-censorship, by all users. The CAC has worked to decrease algorithm use by app operators, presumably of the type that doesn’t privilege CCP propaganda. A 10-point notice has ordered online administrators to decrease exposure to celebrities and online fan clubs, as well as violence and vulgarity.

An August campaign by the CAC suppressed citizen journalists and stock analysts who “misinterpret economic policies and forecast doom and gloom in financial markets.” Independent “self-media” accounts that allegedly spread fake news and rumors in order to blackmail companies were targeted. Expect blindingly sunny financial predictions to go with those Maoist boy bands.

Along with Beijing’s recent crackdowns on the technology, education, and entertainment industries in China, the CAC’s global war against internet freedom is bringing the brave new world of communist automatons to a computer near you. Unless the “uncivilized” internet strikes back.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Anders Corr
Anders Corr has a bachelor's/master's in political science from Yale University (2001) and a doctorate in government from Harvard University (2008). He is a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. He authored “The Concentration of Power” (forthcoming in 2021) and “No Trespassing,” and edited “Great Powers, Grand Strategies.”