People's Daily Calls for Increased Regulation, Supervision, and Self-Discipline for Internet Expression

December 6, 2004

The official People's Daily has reprinted a November 2004 article from the Wenhui Bao that emphasized controlling the opinions expressed on the Internet. The article appears to state the importance of balancing the need to have the Internet stimulate China's economy with the need to silence dissent on the Internet and manipulate public opinion. It represents a clear statement that Chinese authorities do not view the "freedom of speech" guaranteed in China's constitution as an individual right, but rather as a privilege that Chinese citizens may exercise only if they are "well-intentioned" towards the government and the Party.

The article notes the increasing influence of the mass media on public opinion, and notes that many recognize the "utility" of the Internet as a medium. But it also notes an increasing number of Web sites that carry "negative reporting," such as stories about official corruption, the "bad side of breaking news," and "every kind of extremist discussion."

Although the article warns against "vilifying the Internet," saying that discussions that are "extreme but well-intentioned" are a "bitter medicine" that should be tolerated, it recommends that Chinese authorities use the law to silence speech that "provokes trouble," or "confuses public opinion." It calls on Chinese authorities to "improve the technology and techniques for guiding public opinion, and simultaneously actively utilize the modern mass media environment to strengthen supervision, improve the management of society, and bring about timely and positive interactions between public opinion and government administration. . . ."

The article also calls on Web site operators in China to increase self discipline, saying that they must recognize that the Internet "is not only a mass medium, but also is an ideological and public opinion battlefield." If they fail to fight for this battlefield, the article warns, "not only will it influence China's image and investment environment, but more importantly, it will influence the image of the Party and the government."

The article concludes that authorities should: