I don’t like the sound of this at all. The CCP is many things, but subtle and compassionate they are not. So when they talk about giving “guidance” to “purify the Internet,” one is reminded of past examples of their gentle guidance – like imprisoning the “stainless steel mouse” and destroying the lives of idealistic young people who wanted only to make China a more democratic place. What they refer to as guidance and purification most likely means more repression and more censorship.
Chinese Communist Party chief Hu Jintao has vowed to “purify” the Internet, state media reported on Wednesday, describing a top-level meeting that discussed ways to master the country’s sprawling, unruly online population.
Hu made the comments as the ruling party’s Politburo — its 24-member leading council — was studying China’s Internet, which claimed 137 million registered users at the end of 2006.
Hu, a strait-laced communist with little sympathy for cultural relaxation, did not directly mention censorship.
But he made it clear that the Communist Party was looking to ensure it keeps control of China’s Internet users, often more interested in salacious pictures, bloodthirsty games and political scandal than Marxist lessons.
The party had to “strengthen administration and development of our country’s Internet culture”, Hu told the meeting on Tuesday, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
“Maintain the initiative in opinion on the Internet and raise the level of guidance online,” he said. “We must promote civilized running and use of the Internet and purify the Internet environment.”
Ostensibly the chief targets of this purification effort are porn and violent games. But censorship of any kind of talk that poses the slightest risk to China’s much celebrated “harmony” has always been high up on Hu’s list of priorities, so I have to be skeptical that he only has dirty pictures and games in his sites. If he really wants to purify the Internet, how about cracking down on those shrill nationalistic sites that stir up never-ending hatred of the Japanese, and, more recently, of Starbucks?
Update: This is a site I generally detest, but it makes a clever comparison of Hu’s obsession with purification with that of a famous character from Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove:
General Jack D. Ripper: Mandrake, do you recall what Clemenceau once said about war?
Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: No, I don’t think I do, sir, no.
General Jack D. Ripper: He said war was too important to be left to the generals. When he said that, 50 years ago, he might have been right. But today, war is too important to be left to politicians. They have neither the time, the training, nor the inclination for strategic thought. I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.