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Chinese censors hail country’s ‘internet civilisation’

China has hosted a two-day “internet civilisation” conference in the northern city of Tianjin, where the country’s top ideological cadres and cyberspace administrators hailed Beijing’s progress in controlling online information and content.

Through the “Great Firewall” that blocks non-sanctioned online information from overseas, a vast army of online police that censors domestic internet content, and a raft of hefty fines than punish businesses and individuals for violations of content rules, the Chinese authorities have built a powerful information control system that protects the primacy of Beijing’s messages.

Huang Kunming, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s propaganda chief, said in a message to the conference that China’s cyberspace civilisation “has achieved noticeable results” in the past decade. China will “promote the integration of comprehensive cyber governance with internet civilisation” as a way to let cyberspace “be filled with advanced culture and time spirits”, Huang was quoted as saying by the official People’s Daily.

Li Shulei, executive deputy chief of the party’s propaganda unit, said one mission of China’s internet regulators is to “guide netizens to deeply feel the great power of Xi Jinping Thought as the truth and the guidance of practice”, according to a statement published by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), an organiser of the event.

Xi Jinping Thought has 14 main principles, which emphasise Communist ideals.

Zhuang Rongwen, the head of CAC, said the efforts to build up internet civilisation are partly about “online promotion and education of core socialist values”.

China’s Minister of Education Huai Jinpeng said at the event that China’s education system was giving internet civilisation a more prominent role to guide teachers and students to “always listen to the Party and always follow the Party”, according to a CAC statement.

Li Hongzhong, the party secretary of Tianjin, said that the city is “committed to integrating the development and governance of the internet” and “combining online and offline services to enhance its ability to manage the internet”.

The two-day event, which closed on Monday, also produced a six-point “Tianjin Manifesto” about internet content control through “insisting on the right political direction, right public opinion guidance and proper value orientation” as well as “purifying the cyberspace ecosystem like purifying the air”.

China’s taming of the internet as a propaganda channel has been solidified in recent years. Through real name registration requirements and other surveillance technologies, the Chinese authorities have gained the capacity to chase down individuals behind internet posts deemed undesirable.

Beijing has also implemented several strict regulations to govern internet platforms. New rules on privacy, data management and algorithmic recommendations have crimped popular revenue models.

Sheng Ronghua, CAC deputy head, said last week that China had censored some 20 billion pieces of “illegal and undesirable information” and shut down nearly 1.4 billion internet user accounts since 2019, or about one account per Chinese person.

This is the second year that China has hosted the event. Last year’s inaugural event in Beijing aimed to “develop a positive and healthy internet culture and purify the network ecology”. South China Morning Post

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