People's Daily Continues Call for Increased Regulation of the Internet

May 24, 2005

For the second time in a week, the People’s Daily, China’s official government newspaper, has published an editorial calling for increased restrictions on the free flow of information on the Internet. On December 6, the People's Daily print edition reprinted a three-week-old editorial from the Wenhui Bao calling on authorities to use the law to silence speech that "provokes trouble," or "confuses public opinion." On December 8, the paper ran its own opinion piece emphasizing that the Internet represents an important tool for the Communist Party to manipulate public opinion:

Just as we have taken the initiative to emphasize that the work of newspapers, television, and radio must have a firm grasp on propaganda ideology work, we must also build up the emphasis on Internet public opinion propaganda in order to provide beneficial propaganda guarantees and public opinion support for overall reform, development, and stability.

In recent years the Internet has been a battlefield for the Communist Party's propaganda ideology work, and its utility has become increasingly clear. The Web sites of the People's Daily, Xinhua, and other news media organizations that propagandize the Party's guiding principles report on successes in building reform, initiating new civilizing trends, attacking negative phenomena, and making contributions to the country's reform, development, and stability.

The article goes on to warn readers that, as it currently operates, the Internet is a threat to the Party’s monolithic control over how the mass media influences public opinion:

However, the Internet is not tranquil. . . . Both at home and abroad there are hostile influences and people with ulterior motives who are using the Internet to make us "divided" and "westernized." They disseminate fake information, spread reactionary speech, and even employ Internet writers to write about socially hot topics and sensitive news to fool Internet users and misguide public opinion.

If we do not move to capture the ideological battlefield, others will occupy it.

The piece concludes by calling on China’s news media to increase their self-censorship, and for Chinese authorities to step up their control over the Internet:

Political, value, and moral standards on the Internet must conform with China's Constitution and laws, and reflect the fundamental requirements of China's socialist system. The Internet media must strengthen its self-discipline consciousness, and regulate Internet content in accordance with the law. . . . Relevant agencies should strengthen management of the Internet and form an inter-connected, extremely efficient management of the Internet.

The Party requires the heads of all Party organizations to subscribe to and distribute the People’s Daily to their subordinates.

This is not the first time Chinese authorities have warned government and Party officials that they must understand that the free flow of information threatens their ability to manipulate public opinion. For example, in September 2003 the Liberation Army Daily published an editorial entitled "Build a Firm Ideological 'Firewall'" warning readers:

International and overseas spy organizations use the Internet as an important means to get intelligence; they frequently set online “traps” to obtain intelligence. Although we have set up "firewalls" and other measures to ward off such harmful information, there is some information we cannot "ward off" or "fend off."