A prominent Chinese nationalist has called for China to take tighter control of the country's Internet in part by building an online army of civilians to monitor the Web.
Zhang Hongliang (張宏良), a Maoist opinion leader, put together [zh] an elaborate plan of action on his blog on May 17, 2013 soon after the “Seven Speak-Nots” policy, a list of seven forbidden subjects for discussion in schools and online in China, was revealed. The post has since been deleted.
Political liberals in China have promoted the Internet as a platform for public deliberation and political negotiation since the landmark Sun Zhigang incident in 2003. That case saw the abolition of custody and repatriation in China, which allowed police to detain people without a proper permit and return them to where they legally could live and work, after the death of 27-year-old university graduate Sun Zhigang in an official detention center caused massive outrage online.
Even extreme nationalists have made use of the Internet for political mobilization, such as a national anti-Japanese protest in September 2012.
But in the past few weeks, the government has undertaken a new censorship campaign that has removed the accounts of numerous political liberals from popular microblogging site Sina Weibo.
Below are the four main arguments Zhang makes in his 10,000-word article [zh]:
Firstly, Sina and other major portal sites are registered as foreign corporations and controlled by monopolized capital in the hands of the United States and other western countries. Their interests are thus in opposition to China.
Secondly, most of the editors or content operators of major portals are coming from Nanfang Media Group, which is like a “military academy” for online media. Both domestic and overseas anti-communist and anti-Chinese forces are very proud of the base.
Thirdly, Internet authorities in China are under the control of those who advocate for western political systems and universal values. Their mission is to crackdown on those with left-leaning beliefs and Cultural Revolution believers by demonizing people's revolution, people's leaders, socialism, and national culture and spirit and by supporting traitor culture, indulging anti-communist and anti-Chinese forces, as well as repressing leftist patriot forces.
Fourthly, “Chimerica” has been extended from the economic domain to the Internet. The online opinion headquarters in the US is now manipulating both Chinese and US Internet opinion. “Chimerica” is a notion conceptualized by Harvard professor Niall Ferguson to describe the new economy of “made in China and consume in the US”. However, we call such a relationship “colonial economic cycle”. “Chimerica” is a result of the neoliberal economic reform, and the US later tries to extend such a relationship from the economic to the political domain to create a polity based on the “co-governance of China and the US”. Now in the Internet domain, the “co-governance of China and the US” led by the US has already been shaped. The major driving force is the large number of online opinion navy [meaning paid opinion leaders] formed by “foreigners who have black hair and black eyes”.
Based on his above analysis, Zhang put forward the following proposal:
Firstly, major portal websites have to be governed under domestic policy. Or we can regain the control by nationalization. We have pointed out many times in the past that in the information age, the Internet is a very distinctive business that affects our national and military security. It should not be controlled by foreign controlled capital or run by the foreign capital cooperation model. Now that major portal websites are listed in overseas stock market. We could regain China's holding through merger and acquisition. To regain China's control over the portal sites, we have to set up party branches, labour union branches, and worker stake-holding organizations within the corporations. We have to manage portal websites like our military. The military should not fall into the hands of foreign capital or be managed under the foreign capital-cooperation mode. The same principal should be applied to the Internet.
Secondly, rearrange the Internet administrative team and make sure that the task of Internet governance should be in the hands of those officials who believe in Marxism and patriotism. […] The problem with Chinese online public opinion is caused by the Internet authorities whose decisions are based on western universal values. When Internet management authorities insist and act on Secretary Xi Jinping's speeches and the spirit of the Chinese Communist Party's 18 Congress, the Chinese Internet will gear public opinion towards socialism and patriotism.
Thirdly, manifest political advantage by combining the communist party's leadership with mass monitoring by setting up working teams and people's monitoring committees in portal websites. So that the monitoring is both top-down and bottom-up. This is to ensure all the portal websites are in alignment with patriotism and serving national, political, and military security proposes.
Fourthly, build a modern online army by bringing together the military force and people so as to form a modern defense system of the network society. The age of the Internet is an era of mass democracy and mass democracy should replace elite democracy. This is the developing trend of the 21 century human society. […] In China, the history of everyone being a solider and mass democratic movement has given us the advantage of building the modern online army, which is the substance of massive participation in the new era, towards a civilization of mass politics. This is the historical path of the rise of the Chinese nation. If we stick to the principle of the mass, the era of the online army is the era of the revival of the Chinese nation. [Note: the revival of the Chinese nation is the slogan or the “China dream” of President Xi Jinping's leadership.]
Fifthly, borrow from the experience of the US and Russia with legislation of “Patriot Act” and “Treason Law“, we should legislate an “anti-Chinese traitor law” which is in the same spirit of the “anti-separation law”. We should restore the clause regarding “punishing the traitors” in our Constitution and set the patriotic legal ground for party, people, and legal governance of the Internet.
The central government's policy towards Internet government is under the so-called “dictator's dilemma”. On the one hand, an open Internet is the essential foundation of the information society and the central government has established its legitimacy by actively responding to online public opinion.
On the other hand, citizens have made use of the Internet to build a consensus for liberal political reform and by doing so, they have put the power of the one-party regime at risk.