President Xi Jinping called on Communist Party officials Tuesday to use the internet to better understand citizens and address their grievances, Reuters reported, citing state media.
The party should be patient with internet users, resolve difficulties and correct erroneous opinions in a timely manner, a report by the official Xinhua news agency quoted Xi as saying.
The government is embracing the internet as a key space in which to shape public discourse, an increasingly pressing issue as discontent spreads among the growing number of people hit by the economic slowdown, Reuters said.
More broadly, the ruling Communist Party sees technology as crucial for bolstering its economy, which grew at an annual rate of 6.7 percent in the first quarter, its weakest pace since early 2009.
In an effort to shape public opinion online, Xi’s government has implemented an unprecedented tightening of internet controls and sought to codify the policy within the law, a campaign that critics say ignores human rights and is a burden for business.
Officials say internet restrictions are needed to ensure security in the face of rising threats such as terrorism and foreign ideology that could destabilize the country.
Premier Li Keqiang, propaganda chief Liu Yunshan, central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. executive chairman Jack Ma Yun and Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. chairman Ren Zhengfei attended the meeting, Xinhua said.
Also present were top officials from the People’s Liberation Army and state security apparatus.
Internet regulators should welcome and learn from constructive criticism online, whether it’s targeted at the party and government or individual leaders, Xi said. Those topics are usually considered off-limits by China’s censors.
But if cyberspace is in turmoil, it will not be in the people’s interest, Xinhua cited Xi as saying.
Xi’s comments echo his words in December, when he said people should be able to speak freely online.
But Chinese authorities have continued to censor views that differ from the party’s, in some cases detaining people for comments they make online.
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