Feedback from China on Internet Freedom

There are plenty of articles published in the west about the Internet and freedom of speech in China.  So what is the influence of these articles back within China?  What about any feedback?  Sometimes, it is back to Interviewing Bloggers About Censorship in China.  But while bloggers are more vocal and articulate, they may not represent the population as a whole.  

The following is a translation of an article of the type that you will probably never get to read in English (except through China Daily).  There is no evidence to say that this is representative either.  This exercise is to show that an article appears in the New York Times and this is what comes back in mainstream media in China.  Meanwhile, it is not known if who inside China read the original article, or this rebuttal; and if they did, it is not known what they really thought.

The second last paragraph of the essay does point to an obvious problem: the old 'dinosaurs' are the least able to comprehend new media, but they are still the top decision-makers.  Do they know how to cope, though?  And you have to wonder if the true purpose of this essay is to tell them that they don't get it.

(Dongfang Net via  The Popularization of the Internet in China and the Bankruptcy of the Prediction in the New York Times.  By Wu Guangren.  November 29, 2005.

The title of this essay was written in reaction to a prediction made in a New York Times (USA).  Recently, the New York Times published an article that predicted: "The previously invincible Chinese Communists will lose in the battle against the Internet."  Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once said: "With the Internet, there is a way to counter China.

This type of talk deserves our attention.  They are not just talking, because they are attacking us everyday through the Internet.  Everyday, they are infiltrating and invading our ideological formation.  They make use of their huge advantages in information technology and information resources to promote "freedom for information" and "globalization of information."  They attack our national Internet administration policies, and they list China as a country that "restricts its citizens from freely roaming the Internet and obtaining news and information about international politics, religion and economics."  The overseas hostile forces have set up a series of reactionary Chinese-language websites to create rumors, to slander and to libel, and these are the principal sources of political rumors on the Internet.  If you don't realize this, then you are just a simpleton or a fool!

Over the past several years, the Chinese Internet is developing rapidly.  There are more than 100 million Internet users in our county, and almost 700,000 websites.  China will become the world's largest Internet-using country soon.  Insofar as the technology for developing the Internet goes, the most obvious characteristics are the freedom, openness and interactivity.  The public can not only easily obtain various kinds of information, but they can also easily release and distribute information to influence society and other people.  This technological characteristic of the Internet gave previously unthinkable ease for people to express their opinions on the Internet.  This situation poses new issues for the administration and direction of ideological formation, and presents a huge and sharp challenge.  The points made by Madeleine Albright and the New York Times are not groundless.

But the prediction in the New York Times article is wishful thinking.   "The previously invincible Chinese Communists will lose in the battle against the Internet" is a statement that is not going to be realized.  The Internet was invented by people, and people can also find ways to counter the attacks used by overseas hostile forces over the Internet.  Our approach is to "actively develop, enhance administration, go for the good, stay away from the bad and use it for ourselves."

Special attention should be given to the fact that one of the negative effects of the two-edged blade known as the Internet comes from the various kinds of political rumors disseminated on the Internet by persons with ulterior motives.  They are only worried if there is no chaos, and they create all kinds of rumors that seemed real.  They believe the infamous words of Hitler's propaganda chief Goebbels: "A lie repeated a thousand times becomes the truth."  They keep making up and designing all kinds of rumors on the Internet and poison people's minds to create turmoil.  For many netizens, when they read the Internet rumors, they should stop and think: "Are these rumors reliable?  Are they real?"  If we read those kinds of "major news, believe in them and distribute them further, then we have been fooled by those people with ulterior motives.  We must act against those people who create the rumors and we must not let them off easily.  We recommend that they be investigated thoroughly and then processed according to the law.  They better not get elated too quickly, because people who create rumors do not have good endings!

Thus, we must also mention that our cadre leaders must pay attention to the effects of the Internet.  Presently, there are still many cadre leaders who don't understand computers and are proud that they don't use the Internet and don't know how to send email ("伊妹儿").  The many commonly known rumors on the Internet are news to them.  When they hear them, they distribute them and become the volunteer promoters.  They use excuses such as "too busy at work and not enough time" or "technophobia" to refuse to learn to use the Internet and they have no idea what a blog is.  Over the long term in this manner, they will become a new type of illiterate person who has fallen behind the times.  As the cadre leaders to lead ideological formation, they will gradually lose the initiative of leadership and even the right to lead.  If you don't know enough about yourself as well as others, how can you say that you can fight the good battle over ideological formation?  There is a hidden danger for the senior cadre leaders: If you don't understand public opinion, how can you do good leadership work?

As long as we use more ways of properly looking at the internet, we can make use of the best parts, we go for the good and stay away from the bad and we use it for our purposes, then we can turn it around on them.  Just as we can defeat the well-armed American military in the Korean war of yesteryear, we won't be defeated in this huge Internet war by the various intranational and international reactionary ideological trends in the various areas.  Albright and the New York Times prediction will come to nothing.  About this, we have enough self-confidence.