President Xi Jinping Advocates for an Internet Security Barrier
Another Step Towards Internet Isolation?
In a significant development over the weekend, Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered a directive that emphasizes the creation of a more fortified "security barrier" surrounding China's internet, administered directly under Beijing's supervision.
The mandate, issued during a cybersecurity conference held in the Chinese capital, seeks to intensify governance over cyberspace, in line with the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) influence. This move indicates the potential for an increasingly isolated Chinese internet space.
As quoted from a state-sponsored media outlet, Xi Jinping highlighted the importance of upholding the CCP's leadership within the internet sector. He advocated for a robust cybersecurity barrier and encouraged utilizing information technology as a catalyst for development. Xi stressed the importance of managing cyberspace, online activities, websites, and apps following the law.
Speaking at the conference, Cai Qi, a member of the Secretariat of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, emphasized the need to reinforce online guidance, safeguard against ideological threats, and enhance cyberspace governance and leadership over digital ideologies.
Cai stressed the significance of preserving the Party's supervision over the internet, alongside bolstering its comprehensive leadership in cyberspace and information technology.
While the declarations are potent, they remain inherently ambiguous, a common trait in Beijing's directives. However, Xi accentuated the necessity for party committees at all levels to ensure proper implementation.
Internet and information technology departments across different tiers are required to demonstrate loyalty to the Party and its people, according to Xi. He called on these departments to shoulder their responsibilities, exhibit innovation and dedication, and take a firm stance against cyber terrorism and unlawful acts in cyberspace.
Xi's decree brings a foreboding of China's internet potentially becoming further isolated, hinting at a reinforcement of the "Great Firewall" - a phrase coined to symbolize the stringent legislative actions and technologies deployed by China to regulate its internet domain. This firewall is primarily known for imposing censorship and restricting access to foreign media services not adhering to Party values.
Beijing's ever-tightening regulatory policies have been challenging for several foreign entities to navigate. LinkedIn, Google, Meta, and Zoom form a part of the escalating roster of firms withdrawing from operating within China.
Domestic behavior considered undesirable by Beijing, including toxic online fan clubs and unscrupulous live streamers exploiting minors, have been recently targeted by new regulations.
A recent report by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), highlighted how the administration purged 54.3 million pieces of information considered undesirable in 2022 alone.
According to Alibaba's news outlet, South China Morning Post, the newly announced directives immediately spurred a week-long anti-rumor campaign led by China's Ministry of Public Security. This campaign involves the activation of police departments spreading warnings about misinformation.
As a result of this campaign, Shanghai police reported targeting 258 individuals and shutting down 460 illegal accounts for violations. Meanwhile, the police in Sichuan province reportedly handled five individuals and 52 cases of rumor-mongering, resulting in the shutdown of 116 online accounts.