Saturday, November 22, 2014

Placing the Claims Made About the Wuzhen Global Internet Conference in the Context of Current Chinese Internet Company Practices

In a Chinese language editorial published on November 20, 2014 entitled “Looking at Wuzhen, Does China’s Internet Look ‘Localized’?” (从乌镇看中国互联网像“局域网”吗) the Global Times said:
Westerners cling with a death grip to the perception that people must put a political hat on the inconsistencies between China's and the West's approach to Internet management. They are too lazy to gain a deeper understanding of what China and the rest of the world put on display.
In the spirit of helping lazy Westerners gain a deeper understanding of what China is putting on display, the following context is offered for statements by government officials and the state run media regarding the recently-concluded Wuzhen World Internet Conference:

Official Statement: President Xi Calls for "Democratic" Internet Governance

In his "Message of Congratulations" (世界互联网大会贺词) to the Conference President Xi Jinping said:
Following the principle of mutual respect and mutual trust, China is ready to work with other countries to deepen international cooperation, respect sovereignty on the Internet, uphold cyber security, and jointly build a cyberspace of peace, security, openness and cooperation and an International Internet governance system of multilateralism, democracy and transparency. 
Context: Baidu Bans Forums on "Democracy"

This screenshot was taken on November 21, 2014, and shows that Baidu has banned users from establishing a PostBar (Tieba 贴吧) forum on the subject of "Democracy" (民主).

Official Statement: Central Propaganda Department Deputy Director Lu Wei's Call for Transparency

During his closing remarks at the Conference on November 20, 2014, Lu said:
To arrive at a consensus we must strengthen communication, seek common ground while recognizing differences, and build a multilateral, democratic, and transparent governance system for the international Internet and create a peaceful, safe, open and cooperative Internet space together. 
Context: Transparent Internet Governance with Chinese Characteristics

As noted previously in this blog, during the last year China’s state run media has exposed at least two cases involving police officers in Beijing and Hainan who were entrusted with censoring online content, and who abused their authority by taking bribes to order web masters to delete information that did not violate any of China’s laws, regulations, or policies. See:
On April 17, 2014, the state sponsored Southern Weekend published an article entitled “Internet Police Bribe Internet Police: Deleting Posts for Their Bosses” (网警贿赂网警:替领导删帖). According to the article, this is the censorship governance system that enabled this kind of corruption:
Anyone who had authority over the Internet could send down an order to delete a post. With respect to posts about the government that were negative, the most common demand was "Don't let them garner too much attention." "Currently the orders that come down are not in any written document, they are all issued as messages in a QQ group." 
These screenshots show that the article was deleted within hours.

State Run Media Report: Global Internet Connectivity

On November 20, 2014, China’s official news agency Xinhua published an article entitled “China Holds First World Internet Conference, Urges Better Governance.” Some excerpts:
China held the First Internet Conference in the rivertown of Wuzhen, calling for global Internet interconnectivity and shared governance by all.
. . . .
Lu Wei, minister of the Cyberspace Administration of China, hoped the attendees would make plans for Internet interconnectivity and shared governance as well as promote consensus and to make a historical contribution for the Internet.
Context: China's Weibos Censor Information About China's Manipulation of Internet Interconnectivity

These screenshots show that on the same day Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo were censoring search results for “Overseas Websites Completely Unblocked at China Wuzhen Internet Conference” (中国乌镇互联网大会全面解禁境外网站).

State Run Media Report: Freedom vs Order

The same day Xinhua published a Chinese language article entitled “Becoming an Internet Superpower with the ‘Wuzhen Net’” (走向网络强国的“乌镇网事”) which quoted Lu Wei as saying:
With Internet interconnectivity there must also be respect for sovereignty, with fast development there must also be guarantees of security, with calls for freedom there must also be respect for order, with self reliance there must also be cooperation. 
The purpose of the Internet security censorship system is to safeguard Internet security and national security, safeguard the healthy development of the economy and society, and safeguard the interests of China’s consumers. We are not targeting specific countries or enterprises. Rather, it includes all countries an all enterprises.  
Context: On Baidu's Forums, Discussion of "Order" is Allowed, but Not "Freedom"

These screenshots were taken on November 20, 2014, and show that Baidu was banning forums on the topic of “Freedom,” (自由), but had allowed users to establish a forum for “Order” (秩序).

State Run Media Report: Domestic Companies Wielding Influence Abroad

The same day state sponsored Global Times published an English language article entitled “China Lays Out Vision for Web Governance.” Some excerpts:
Centering on the theme of "An Interconnected World Shared and Governed by All," the conference is covering topics that include global Internet governance, mobile Internet, cross-border e-commerce, cybersecurity and  combating terrorism on the Internet.
. . . .
[The conference and Xi's message] show that the Chinese government has placed higher priority on managing the Internet, as China is becoming an Internet superpower, with a huge number of Web users and the global influence of Chinese Internet companies like Alibaba," Wei Wuhui, an Internet and new media expert with Shanghai Jiao Tong University, told the Global Times.
Context: Censorship of Reports Linking Chinese Internet Companies to Government Officials

On July 20, 2014, the New York Times published an article entitled “Alibaba’s I.P.O. Could Be a Bonanza for the Scions of Chinese Leaders.” The article appeared in Chinese the following day under the title “The Red Descendants Behind Alibaba’s IPO” (阿里巴巴上市背后的“红二代”赢家). These screenshots show that on July 26, Sina Weibo began censoring search results for "Alibaba New York Times" (阿里巴巴 纽约时报).

State Run Media Report: Users Must Be Responsible for Their Speech

From the same Global Times article:
"Development without discipline and regulation will not be sustainable. As the Internet has developed, problems have emerged. Xi's initiative to construct an international Internet governance system provides direction and practical steps for solving those problems," Huang Chengqing, vice-president of the Internet Society of China and a participant at the conference, told the Global Times. 
As the development of the Internet provides individuals with greater freedom to speak and share information, the public should also be responsible for their speech and conscientious about disseminating information that will harm the country's development, said Huang.
Context: Censorship of United Nations Reports

On March 18, 2014, a statement entitled “Deadly Reprisals: UN Experts Deplore the Events Leading to the Death of Chinese Human Rights Defender Cao Shunli, and Ask for Full Investigation” (致命报复:联合国专家对导致中国维权人士曹顺利死亡的事件表示痛惜,并要求予以彻查) was published on the web site of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

These screenshots show that on March 20, a Baidu user searching for “Cao Shunli" (曹顺利 got four results, the first of which was the foregoing statement. A user doing the same search on March 21 only got two results, and the foregoing statement was not among them.

State Run Media Report: China is Quite Guileless

In a Chinese language editorial published the same day entitled “Looking at Wuzhen, Does China’s Internet Look ‘Localized’?” (从乌镇看中国互联网像“局域网”吗) the Global Times said:
It is hoped that Wuzhen will become a new starting point for global interconnectivity for the Internet. China's way of doing things is not riddled with "plots" as imagined by Westerners. With respect to the issue of opening to outsiders, China is actually quite guileless
Context: China's Weibo Censor Information About China's Cyber-Attacks

On February 21, 2013, the state-sponsored Global Times published an English article entitled "Regular Cyber Attacks From US: China." Some excerpts:
In a report released Monday, Mandiant pointed its fingers at a Chinese military unit named People's Liberation Army (PLA) Unit 61398, saying the Shanghai-based outfit had systematically stolen confidential data from at least 141 organizations across 20 industries.
. . . .
"China should strive for a greater say in laying out international rules on cyber security," Da told the Global Times on Wednesday, suggesting that in response to continuous accusations, China, also a big victim of cyber attacks, can "fight" back with concrete evidence.
These screenshots show that immediately after the publication of the New York Times report, both Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo began censoring searches for Unit 61398 (61398部队).