The Chill Behind China’s Vision of a ‘Beautiful’ Internet
China is hosting an international conference on the Internet in scenic Wuzhen, but visitors from abroad will — unlike most people in China — have free access to the entire Internet, including sites that are blocked by Chinese censors.
An internet meme doing the rounds a few months ago on Chinese social media said it all.
A caption on a photo of Mark Zuckerberg meeting Xi Jinping had the young American being introduced to the Chinese President as the CEO of “404 Page Not Found.”
That is, of course, because Facebook is blocked in China, and “404 Page Not Found” is a common error message seen by Chinese netizens trying to access any one of hundreds of blocked websites, including Facebook.
Chinese government officials like to cloak their intentions in positive-sounding words. The previous president, Hu Jintao, spoke of the “harmonious society,” which translated into action meant any dissent or criticism of the Communist Party and party officials would be quickly and sharply dealt with. Any websites, blogs or posts on social media deemed to be anti-government were quickly “harmonized,” as Chinese netizens put it.
Now the latest pretty word is “beautiful.” A beautiful Internet, to China’s leaders, means one that the state controls. It’s a view shared by other governments, such as Russia’s or Iran’s. It endangers a free and open Internet, which is often the only access citizens have to information not controlled by their governments.
President Xi Jinping wants other nations to respect the “sovereignty” of China’s management of the Internet.
China’s President Xi Jinping has called on countries to respect one another’s “cyber sovereignty” and different internet governance models.
Mr Xi said countries had the right to choose how to develop and regulate their internet.
He was speaking at the Beijing-sponsored World Internet Conference held in Zhejiang province.
China has been criticised for its strict internet regulations where it blocks major sites and censors posts.
The BBC’s John Sudworth, who is at the conference, says the keynote speech by President Xi is a clear sign that internet security and control have been elevated to national priorities.
Xi rejected the idea of “cyber hegemony,” or in less political terms, the concept that the Internet should be free of government regulation.