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The Study Times: Ways to Effectively Excise Control over the Internet

By the end of February 2009, there were a total of 600 million Chinese mobile phone users, and 300 million Internet users. Compared to traditional media such as newspapers, radio and television, the Internet has some unique features and advantages. So, for the Chinese government, how to monitor and control the Internet has become a challenge.

Recently, the Chinese government has done more research on how to maintain the Party’s authority over the Internet, including such means as creating a large number of media teams specifically to control the Internet, establishing rules to accurately locate and punish offending parties, and rewarding those who report wrongdoing. The following is a summary of the Party School of The Chinese Communist Party’s publication on this subject. [1]

Strengthen the Party’s Leadership, Change Traditional Concepts, Take the Initiative, and Guide the General Public

The party’s Publicity Departments manage online media. Other relevant government departments  participate in the decision making process on any media related policies. These government departments also administer these policies. In summary, to further strengthen the party’s leadership means always to maintain the party’s leadership on the Internet.

Changing concepts: The party’s publicity departments at all levels must let go of their traditional ways of thinking about the media, and do in-depth studies of online media. They must study the characteristics of how the Internet disseminates information, its uncontrollability, and how it involves a wide range of outside parties. All of these features require the government to develop long-term, effective, and consistent strategies and guiding principles. To overcome the difficulties of managing the Internet, the key is to establish a policy, the core of which is to focus on “Shu.” “Shu” means sparse. “Shu” policy is the backbone of how the central government should deal with the Internet. “Shu” is for a long-term commitment, and is not momentary. "Shu” targets the general public.  It is not to divert, or guide a few people, but instead to target and guide the general public. In addition to establishing the “Shu” policy, the government needs to train and build up a large number of media teams. It must also build a large number of teams specifically to control the Internet. For Publicity Departments, this is as important as adhering to the traditional way.

Proactively guiding the Internet to stay in line with the party’s ideology, the party’s future plans, and the party’s overall policy: At the same time, the Party must educate the Chinese people about traditional cultural and historical achievements, feed the Chinese people with a healthy, positive and optimistic spirit, and nourish the Chinese people with advanced scientific knowledge.

Guiding the public is imperceptible. However, the guiding involves all departments, and all industries, such as education, health, culture, science, technology, and agriculture. It touches on topics of corruption, health care, social security, the wealth gap, foreign relations, and so on. The party’s Publicity Departments and other government departments must cooperate in guiding the public. Each department should be prevented from acting on its own. It is obvious that fragmentation cannot form a cohesive force. Under the overall plan of the central government, the professional sector, however, can analyze its own situation, and identify its own focus. However, the implementation of any action should be under the party’s unified organization, and be carried out progressively under the leadership of the Publicity Departments of the party.

To Create Laws and Regulations

At present, there is a big gap between China and the Western developed countries on Internet regulations. China should enact regulations based on a "Telecommunications Act," by adding content related to online media management to the "Telecommunications Act,” lawfully authorizing government departments to manage the Internet, and to create the agencies needed to implement the authorization. The content will not only define the management power of the government agencies, but will also help promote the telecommunication industry’s advantages. It also needs to amend the "Criminal Law" and "General Principles of Civil Law," to outline the rules in order to accurately locate and punish those who disseminate false news, or rumors through Internet, or that cause confusion among the public. Those who intentionally disclose serious personal, private information, or who exhibit abusive network behavior will be accused of civil or even criminal charges.

To scientifically define the terms of the Internet’s technical and functional features, and to implement a standardized language to define these features, will prevent different agencies from adopting different names for the same features. This might cause unnecessary disputes among agencies, and will prevent and help overcome confusion among departments on the same problems due to unclear and inaccurate Internet terminologies. This is in particularly urgent when it comes to so called "triple network integration," that is, the integration of the network content, network terminals, and the network.

In the legislation it must be clear that the users need to provide their real names. In many developed countries, a person uses one document for multiple activities. It is undisputable that the legislation to implement the real-name system is conducive to managing online media.

To Build Up an Internet and a Publicity System that Consists of both Full Time and Part Time Professionals

In the past when traditional media dominated the world, the party’s publicity department had already recruited a large number of full-time and part-time journalists and correspondents. They played a major role. Under the new circumstances, it is crucial to integrate the existing resources, and to establish a renovated Internet publicity team that flows from the central government, to the provincial level and to the municipal level. In addition, there are all kinds of newspapers and magazines throughout the country. There are also many Internet reporters and editors. The key elements here are to integrate all the resources, to build an Internet publicity team comprised of both full-time and part-time professionals, to proactively preempt the Internet business, and to guide the tendency of commercial media.

Investing in the Internet will ensure that all levels of government expenditures are covered, and further ensure the income of network journalists, writers, editors and moderators. A large number of young people can be recruited to work on the Internet, full-time or part time. They can be teamed up according to the function of the online media, BBS, blogs and so on. During sensitive periods, the focus can be on producing a number of influential comments, articles, and blogs.

Recruiting a part time Internet team: The Central level, the provincial level, autonomous regions and the municipal level can each have a team of part time online media workers who love this work, have a high political consciousness, and can write high quality articles. Their work should be recognized and rewarded according to their achievements.

To Strengthen the Timeliness and Accuracy of the Information Publicity, and To Increase the Transparency of the Information

A few years ago, traditional media stayed away from some most important social issues and unexpected incidents. This caused a blockage in the information flow. It also caused great damage to the government’s image and undermined the credibility of traditional media.

Timeliness will ensure the first hand release of information to public. Unlike traditional media, today, information should first be published on a Government website. The party’s news media should become the main channel and it should be the first to publish the news. This will improve the party’s prestige and reputation, and increase the credibility of the media.

To accurately report information means to follow the basic rules of the media. As for various types of news, events should define the nature of the news and/or events as long as there is certainty. Under the circumstance where there may be uncertainty, neutral language should be used to prevent there being a discrepancy between statements made before and after the event. For instance, regarding the Chongqing taxi incident, the presentation was different before and after. At first, the incident was reported as a “strike.” Later the description was changed to “recess.” There is a big difference between these two, and the impact is also different.

Transparency means to disclose information completely, not to show half, and hide half, or leave some unsaid. Such insincerity will cause doubt. The cause, the process, and the final view of the incident should be fully disclosed. The higher the transparency, the more it will be trusted. Timely and accurately disclosure of the information, with high transparency, will limit the rumors and lies to those who know them, and will limit them to the wise.

Accurately Define What Position the Communication Industry Holds, to Improve Technical Skills

The wide implementation of Internet technology: Internet users have increased like an avalanche. At the same time, the number of mobile phone users has grown explosively. All of this indicates that "networks" are now playing an extremely important role. The information age would not have occurred if neither satellites, nor wireless networks had been invented. Today, the world is connected through networks. The networks sustain every aspect of society in the world, no matter whether it is political, economic, cultural, or even military. Unfortunately, a number of leaders and decision-making departments do not seem to understand clearly the importance of today’s communication industry. They do not pay enough attention to it, do not realize that the Internet depends on telecommunications, and do not understand the characteristics of telecommunications. They do not realize the vital role of the communication industry in maintaining social stability.

Because of this, it is urgent to strengthen, and build up bureaucratic structures to manage communications, and to build a technical support team. The steps are to increase investment, accelerate research and development, increase the capability of accurately performing blockage; being able to excise complete control from all directions all day long on key issues, in key areas, and for key events, technically to be able to perform monitoring all day long; and to be concerned about the treatment of these high-tech professionals, ensuring that they maintain a decent middle or upper middle class standard of living.

Closely Relying on the General Public to Manage Online Media

Trusting the general public and relying on the general public has been the party’s secret weapon for victory. When it comes to managing online media, we must trust and rely on the masses of the people. They are the users of online media; they are also the recipients of the Internet’s consequences; they are the ones most clear on the online media’s situation.

The first step is to guide the public. The Internet should be categorized scientifically by media type, such as social science, contemporary political, literary, artistic, art, calligraphy, video, photography and all other types. Excellent blogs, posts, and good text messages should be selected; an evaluation/incentives system should be established to encourage users both spiritually and financially for excellent blogs, excellent messaging, and have these excellent messages rated and published on a regular basis; a popular list can be set up. When necessary, material rewards can be given. The best can be recruited for the professional networks workforce.

The second step is to establish a reporting system. With huge networks, tremendous numbers of people, plus the uniqueness of technical characteristics of the network, it is impossible to exercise full control by solely depending on professionals and techniques. Therefore, having masses of people involved will help to find issues in a timely manner. When they see something is wrong, they can report it immediately. Any harmful, pornographic and reactionary information then can be identified on a timely basis. This will ensure that quick actions can be taken to avoid a snowball-type "butterfly effect.” Those who report others should be rewarded both spiritually and materially.

[1] Study Times (No. 08 version of 5/25/2009)