Cyber Conflict

President Xi builds up the Great Firewall to strangle domestic dissent

Latest move by the Cyberspace Administration highlights the ‘repressive’ nature of China’s ‘authoritarian’ regime

For China’s Communist regime, “opening up” means closing down.

Censorship has always been the cement that holds up the Great Firewall surrounding the country’s digital landscape. But now, a new purge has been rolled out by the Cyberspace Administration of China.

The move came less than a week after the world’s second-largest economy was again ranked last in the 2020 Freedom on the Net study. Scoring just 10 points out of a possible 100, China retained the unenviable title for the sixth consecutive year.  

“What we’re seeing right now is the normalization of the sort of digital authoritarianism that the Chinese government has long sought to mainstream,” Adrian Shahbaz, the director for democracy and technology at the report’s author, Freedom House, told a media briefing.

Deaf ears

His comments obviously fell on deaf ears in Beijing. Days later, President Xi Jinping’s ruling party decided to launch another online crackdown.

Initially, up to eight of the most influential mobile browsers have until early November to address what the state-run Cyberspace Administration of China has called a “chaos” of information. Included in the list are Huawei, Alibaba’s UCWeb, Tencent’s QQ platform and Qihoo-owned 360.

“For some time, mobile browsers have grown in an uncivilized way … and have become a gathering place and amplifier for [the] dissemination of chaos by ‘self-media’,” the Cyberspace Administration said in a statement.

The digital censors were referring to independently operated social media accounts that publish news. Party officials have become increasingly concerned about these online outlets.

After the rectification, mobile browsers that still have outstanding problems will be dealt with strictly according to laws and regulations until related businesses are banned.

Cyberspace Administration of China

They fear the government’s voice will be drowned out in the official state-controlled media dominated by Xinhua, the People’s Daily and CCTV.

“After the rectification, mobile browsers that still have outstanding problems will be dealt with strictly according to laws and regulations until related businesses are banned,” the Cyberspace Administration stated, adding that spreading rumors, using sensationalist headlines and violating the core values of socialism will not be tolerated.

‘Repressive’ nature

Edicts like these make a mockery of Xi’s inner circle pushing the “opening up” mantra for foreign consumption while clamping down on domestic dissent and free speech.

They also illustrate the “repressive” nature of China’s “authoritarian” regime.   

“The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is tightening its control over the state bureaucracy, the media, online speech, religious groups, universities, businesses, and civil society associations, and it has undermined its own already modest rule-of-law reforms,” the report by Freedom House pointed out.

“The CCP leader and state president, Xi Jinping, has consolidated personal power to a degree not seen in China for decades, but his actions have also triggered rising discontent among elites within and outside the Party. The country’s budding human rights movements continue to seek avenues for protecting basic rights despite a multiyear crackdown,” it added.

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