China Battles for Web Control (Reuters)

Ben Seattle Left-Transparency at
Wed Aug 9 23:07:19 MDT 2000

I think this article highlights some of the contradictions that
emerge when a ruling class needs the internet for economic
development but is threatened by the free flow of information
and ideas.

Information wants to be free
to serve the working class

Ben Seattle
----//-// 9.Aug.2000

China Battles for Web Control

Reuters --11:00 a.m. Aug. 9, 2000 PDT

BEIJING -- China issued a sharp call Wednesday to Communist Party
media to build up their websites for a propaganda fight against
what it said were enemy forces at home and abroad.

The Chinese government's statements revealed its ambivalence
toward the Internet. The Communist flagship People's Daily said
the new global computer network had made "political thought work"
more efficient but also brought unwelcome ideas.

"Enemy forces at home and abroad are sparing no effort to use
this battle front to infiltrate us," it said.

While the Internet carries "advanced, healthy and beneficial
information, there is also much reactionary, superstitious, and
pornographic content," it said. Beijing has until now focused on
controlling the influx of ideas through the Internet. The
government will now use the Web to "create a good international
image of China," the People's Daily said.

Much of the Chinese media has websites, including the People's
Daily. But with drab, party-approved content, these sites face
the same fight as the one faced by the Communist newspapers that
compete with the livelier, more balanced fare from abroad.

"We must strive to promptly build a corps of experts which have
high political consciousness, good news sense, Internet
technology savvy and command of foreign languages," it said.

Beijing is struggling with the Internet's political repercussions
as dissidents who experience jail or exile are no longer silenced
for good. The work of authors banned from writing for state media
and publishing houses keeps popping up on the Web.

China's leaders are walking a "tightrope," between promoting the
Internet to modernize and stimulate its economy and trying to
control the content it carries, said a Western diplomat.

"I don't see how you can do both and if the Chinese can do it,
they may be the first ones ever," he said.

China's drive to be as wired as its perceived foes comes amid an
ideological campaign aimed at justifying Communist rule in a
period of deepening capitalist economic reforms. The campaign has
included the firing of leading liberal critics who were also
banned from writing.

On Tuesday, foreign human rights groups criticized Beijing for
shutting down what they said was the country's only openly
pro-democracy website based in China.

The Shandong-based New Culture Forum drew Beijing's ire for
posting a robust debate on democratization, said Paris-based
Reporters Sans Frontieres. Last year, the Reporters named China
as one of 20 enemies of the Internet for its censorship of the

China routinely blocks Web sites of Western media outlets, human
rights groups, Tibetan exiles, and other independent sources of
information it deems politically sensitive or harmful.

Domestic sites that violate party dictates have also been closed.
Much control is also exercised through self-censorship by those
who run chat-rooms and bulletin boards.

Beijing, which was stung by reports from the unfettered Hong Kong
media about domestic politics and corruption scandals, forbids
increasingly popular domestic portals from posting news reports
from sources other than state-controlled media.

At least two Chinese "Web dissidents" are in jail.

In China's top case, Huang Qi, a man from Sichuan who published
information on the Internet about the 1989 Tiananmen Square
massacre, faces trial for subversion.

Another man, Qi Yanchen, of Hebei province, faced the same
charges for posting criticism of the government, RSF said.

Members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual group have also been
arrested for using the Internet to spread information about their
faith and about government efforts to crush the movement and to
organize protests against the year-old crackdown.

Copyright © 1999-2000 Reuters Limited.
Copyright © 1994-2000 Wired Digital Inc. All rights reserved.


More information about the Marxism mailing list