China’s Doubletalking Internet White Paper

CCP Doubletalk

I will leave it to the more ambitious to do a section-by-section breakdown of the Chinese State Council’s recent white paper on the internet. But since internet freedom of speech and related issues therein are among the most contentious in China, I will highlight a couple excerpts on this issue that deserve some fire.

First, in Section III, the CCP describes the important position the internet has acquired as a tool of governmental “supervision”. So there is no denying that the government realizes the power of the internet in connecting citizens. Moreover, the white paper says:

“Chinese citizens fully enjoy freedom of speech on the Internet. The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China confers on Chinese citizens the right to free speech. With their right to freedom of speech on the Internet protected by the law, they can voice their opinions in various ways on the Internet.”

However, in Section IV, which covers internet security, the government says the following:

” … no organization or individual may produce, duplicate, announce or disseminate information having the following contents: being against the cardinal principles set forth in the Constitution; endangering state security, divulging state secrets, subverting state power and jeopardizing national unification; damaging state honor and interests; instigating ethnic hatred or discrimination and jeopardizing ethnic unity; jeopardizing state religious policy, propagating heretical or superstitious ideas; spreading rumors, disrupting social order and stability; disseminating obscenity, pornography, gambling, violence, brutality and terror or abetting crime; humiliating or slandering others, trespassing on the lawful rights and interests of others; and other contents forbidden by laws and administrative regulations. These regulations are the legal basis for the protection of Internet information security within the territory of the People’s Republic of China. All Chinese citizens, foreign citizens, legal persons and other organizations within the territory of China must obey these provisions.”

The contradictions here are obvious. Aside from throwing in the always-present yet ill-defined phrase “state secrets”, the restrictions include things as broad and unspecific as “jeopardizing ethnic unity”, “humiliating others”, disrupting social order”, and even “spreading rumors”.

How can a person “fully enjoy freedom of speech” without being allowed to spread rumors?!

Apparently, this is why the CCP decided to keep the security and rights totally separated; this way, they don’t have to deal with the tough job of clearly negotiating the two. Until they do, they will continue to be doubletalking the Chinese people.



15 Comments

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  1. pug_ster

    Since when a country does not constitute things like making death threats in the internet not a crime?

  2. I dont know about you smackers on the world wide web, la chine 博客 sphere …..
    but I got a problem with,
    facebook and the CCP,
    the Chinese Communist Party has a FB group
    they dont like me there, I dont blame them,
    twice I was “harmonized for my crazy comments and pics. still, after reading this “white paper”
    I put forth the problem…

    CCP on facebook?

    give it few months and Facebook will be cool…
    you tell me comrade Slaten, what the hell?
    oh yes….. click “yes” for I “like” …..

    http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Communist-Party-of-China/276629933904?ref=ts

    五毛党

    song of the article,

    “summer time” DJ Jazzy Jeff

    • bai ren

      rumour has it that facebook will RETURN to china in 2011.
      These things change a lot, wikipedia was okay for awhile then was outrightly banned and is back.
      Dont worry, I doubt you’ll be harmonized here unless you start offering more than just your 50cents

    • King Tubby

      kedafu. Get on. Janis did the ***only ***version. Who is this DJ Jazzy wuss??? Never heard of him, but then again I ain’t big on Afro American rapsters/pimps. Get a musical life and you will sleep without those bad dreams which haunt you.

  3. MAC

    You know what was really awesome double-talk? When the (Chinese) Global Times headline on this white paper stated that “netizens have full freedom of speech,” yet looking at the story revealed that there was no comments section at all, treatment that I have usually only observed for anything about the Xinjiang riots and articles involving the top leadership. It was so brazen I actually laughed out loud. Is that sad?

    Speaking of Global Times comments, I haven’t been able to access the comments sections for articles on the English edition for at least a month; is it honestly broken, intentionally broken because they didn’t like the way it was working out but with the link left so that it can be written off as a technical problem, or did I somehow get personally blocked for trolling?

    • I don’t know about your commenting ordeal, but the restrictions of comments on the Global Times article is definitely worthy of out-loud laughing; the sad irony is too outrageous not to be a little funny.

  4. bai ren

    Heard about the white paper about a week ago from a chinese phd canidate in beijing. proved to be good reading but on the whole a resumming up or a centralization of past efforts like their pledge.

    But kevin, why get all up in arms over this freespeach talk. The 1982 constitution which delinates the right of freespeach has the same restrictions almost verbatum (spelling? why doesnt my spell checker work here?).

    good item to bring up, but i feel your take on it is part of an old debate on what the ccp really mean by freespeach

    • There are two potential answers as to “why this argument now?”

      1. Despite the precident, I was trying to make the point — see the final sentence — that this is a continuing phenomena in a new realm — the internet. White papers like these are meant to be some sort of legal basis, but that is precisely the problem; the outright contradiction makes them useless for guiding future behavior (unless one errs on the totally mum side).

      2. Sometimes old debates deserve fresh air, particularly when they remain unresolved. For example, broadly defined, disrupting social order can be anything. Telling someone they enjoy full freedom of speech while throwing in such a contingency is kind of obnoxious, don’t you agree?

      So in the end, perhaps you could say that this piece is a simple reminder/update that “yes, the CCP is still too insecure to allow the foundation for full political or civic rights.”

      Whether or not you feel this update is necessary is up to you. Obviously, I feel that this is a new, important primary source in the ongoing narrative.

      • bai ren

        kevin. You do highlight that the government recognizes the value of the internet as a place of free speach and show how through their double talk they do not necessarily recognize the legitimacy of this new value. thus being the ccase, yes let us beat the old horse.

        however, if we keep in mind that these issues were originally (if I was a good student I would now quote) found in passages of the 1982 consitution, and that over all consistancy with rule of law is not part of the domestic propaganda surrounding the legitimacy of the party. then what suprise, or new information, is the governments’ take on free speach on the internet now??

        before freespeach was enshrined and legitimated as a human right, these days we can see the rise of a new fundemental human right, that of access to the internet (ref Findland and France so far). the human right of access to the internet includes the right of informantion and free speach, these preclude any cencorship because of national concerns over unity.

        China’s current responce to other nations’ unrestricted policies regarding the internet (ref France’s supreame court’s treatment of the right of access to the internet vs IP protection) we can see that the issue of rights is concieved of and treated different under the CCP’S scientific socialism than under liberal democrascies.

        if you want to beat the old horse under a new circumstance, give the old circumstance a vopice, anmd then demonstrate how the new circumstance deserves fresh attention and holds different applications.

  5. I love the concept… ‘you have the freedom of speech’ – now, sit down and shut-up or you’ll be in deep trouble.

  6. WESTERNER

    Section iv does indeed suck and contradicts section iii, sort of like “say what you like….we will talk to you tomorrow” XD. However to a lesser extent the same thing is happening in Britain. Just Google “The digital economy bill” passed in the UK in march 2010. Free speech is being slowly drowned. We are after all the cctv capital of the world and the average British citizen is “watched” more than 300 times a day via camera.