24 September 2018
Mainland authorities want internet firms to promote the Chinese dream to their users. Photo: Bloomberg
Mainland authorities want internet firms to promote the Chinese dream to their users. Photo: Bloomberg

POLICY WATCH: China’s dream state of virtual harmony

Social media may be a useful way for individuals on the mainland to express discontent with government officials but its true social purpose should be much bigger. Lu Wei {魯煒}, Minister of the State Internet Information Office, made that much clear when he took to the podium at a gathering of leading internet lights in Zhengzhou on Oct. 30.

Lu told the assembled at the Forum of Internet Media of China that online media should show people pursuing the Chinese dream and generate positive energy for the nation to reach that goal together.

Work harder to realize the Chinese dream of a prosperous and strong country, the great rejuvenation of the nation, and the people’s welfare and happiness, Lu urged the industry.

The call was less a rallying cry and more a sign that the authorities were stepping up efforts to “harmonize” cyberspace to maintain social stability. With traditional media well and truly in the government’s fold, the public is increasingly turning to social platforms like microblogs to voice their own views. Some prominent figures have also used the services to publish opinions that differ from the official line.  

But Lu’s statement was another sign that the authorities have the fast-growing internet world on their radar and are determined to incorporate it into the existing media regulation framework. 

Mainland internet companies answered the minister’s call by signing the “Zhengzhou Declaration”, a seven-point document in which internet media firms committed to serve the macro environment as a whole, improve “management” and innovation in their operations, and put socialism at the top of their agenda.

They vowed to establish their own brands and to take lead in the market to convey stories of the Chinese dream. They also declared they would remain loyal to the Communist Party.

Non-state internet firms such as Sina Corp. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. (00700.HK) already go a long way to eliminate much open discontent. They have systems in place to filter out messages or posts with sensitive content and they require users to register for the service with their real names so they can be held responsible for any offending content. 

But Lu has broader goals for the industry. He wants it to establish a “pleasant cyberspace” that’s people-centered, civilized, credible, law-abiding, safe and creative.

“A ‘creative cyberspace’ refers to the innovation of ideas, technology, services, communication and management, under which the cyber world can be filled with creativity and vitality,” Lu told the conference.

Mainstream news websites had a leading role to play in bringing those goals to virtual life, Lu said.

– Contact the reporter at [email protected]



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