Discourse Power | August 31, 2022
Internet Civilization, positive vibration, standing at the crossroads, and the youth are starting to change
The second China Internet Civilization Conference 2022年中国网络文明大会 was held earlier this week in Tianjin Municipality, north China, to commemorate China's achievements in creating a world-leading "Internet Civilization."
The two-day conference - not be confused with the World Internet Conference (Wuzhen Summit) - brought together the top academics, party-state officials, media moguls, educators, and business leaders working on a wide range of Internet-related topics, including cybersecurity, propaganda, education, law, and much more.
One of its highlights was the release of the short six-point "Tianjin Declaration on Jointly Creating Internet Civilization" 共建网络文明天津宣言, which I encourage you to read (use machine translation if you need).
For more on China's civilization obsession, you are welcome to refer to an article I published in a previous issue of Discourse Power.
Greetings to our newest subscribers! To the old guard, I'd like to say thanks for sticking with me. If you like what I do here, kindly share Discourse Power with your networks to show your support and help it reach a greater audience.
Before we begin, I'd like to suggest a conversation between Prof. (emeritus) Aron Shai, a prominent historian of contemporary China with more than 50 years of research, and my Israel-China Policy Center colleague at the INSS, Galia Lavi: What dimmed this "avid socialist's" enthusiasm for the "China Model"?
Thank you for reading,
"Raising our banner high is a critical demand for Party media and online services, and we must stay focused wholly on how to transform the superiority of our system into superiority in all respects"
Speaking at the 2022 China Internet Civilization Conference (see intro), senior Party media editor Ye Zhenzhen and Weibo CEO Wang Gaofei want to take Mao’s Mass Line online.
Mr. Ye is the Party Secretary, Chairman, and President of People's Daily Online Co, LTD, a publicly traded company on the Shanghai Stock Exchange that operates the online arm of the Party mouthpiece, People's Daily, and its subsidiaries.
Sina Weibo, led by Mr. Wang, is a Twitter-Facebook hybrid on steroids and one of China's most popular social media platforms, with over 500 million monthly active users.
Although China scholars should be familiar with the term "positive energy" 正能量 in addition to its Rastafarian interpretation, it is always a good idea to consult the handy China Media Project Dictionary:
Positive energy is an important phrase in the Xi Jinping era to refer to information controls and official messaging, both domestically and internationally.
The term generally refers to the need for uplifting messages as opposed to critical or negative ones – and particularly the need for content that puts the Party and government in a positive light.
Excerpts from a Tianjin Daily feature about the addresses by Ye and Wang:
“Online platforms, social organizations, and the Internet-savvy general public must collaborate in order to build a better Internet Civilization - an online space that is shaped and purified 净化 by the new spirit of our era - an online spiritual home 精神家园.
“Ye Zhenzhen stated that raising our banner high 旗帜鲜明 is a critical demand for Party media and online services, and we must stay focused wholly on how to transform the superiority of our system 制度优势 into superiority in all respects 综合优势.
“The Internet houses a vast amount of economic and social data and is able to accurately reflect social sentiments and public opinion. With the scientific and technological support of big data [analytics] and artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet can be a tool for strengthening the Party's leadership and better serving the people.
“Ye introduces the National Key Laboratory of Communication and Content Cognition 传播内容认知全国重点实验室, which People's Daily Online helped establish [in 2019].
“The Lab is working to develop computational cognitive intelligence for political orientation 政治方向, guiding public opinion 舆论导向, and value orientation 价值取向 in an effort to build a "pillar for national power" 国之重器 in the digital era.
“The Internet empowers and connects people on a large scale, making it possible to effectively take the mass line 群众路线 online in the New Era.
Ye said: “The People's Daily Online website operates the Local Leaders Message Board (LLMB) 领导留言板 [a centralized online forum where citizens can petition authorities and file complaints], where central ministries and commissions, as well as local Party committees and governments, can set up an online platform for mass work."
“The LLMB has resulted in more than 3 million cases of urgent, difficult, worrying, or desired 急难愁盼 issues of the masses being responded to and handled over the last ten years, becoming a typical case study of a whole-process people's democracy in China 全过程民主 [aka, “Democracy That Works,” contrary to Western Democracy].
“"As a social media, we are deeply aware that the cultivation of Internet Civilization and the governance of Internet ecology has become an important and urgent issue that requires a collaborative effort from all parties," said Weibo CEO Wang Gaofei in his keynote speech.
“Wang Gaofei described how Weibo continues to explore the development of a harmonious 和谐 and healthy environment for the community so that it can enjoy a sound environment while the content is created by multiple parties and shared by all.
“Weibo introduced the Weibo Community Pact 微博社区公约 and Community Credit Point System 社区信用积分制度 in 2012 to advance our community management, and since last year it has been running a series of "cleaning campaigns" 清朗行动.
“"By optimizing and innovating from the inside out, we have taken a new approach to maintain the platform's environment, from content ecology 内容生态 to product mechanisms, and from technical models down to our algorithms.
"“Our community management process encourages users to actively participate in preserving a [positive] atmosphere in our community discussions. It guides 引导 them to use their real identities, speak reasonably, and be accountable for their words and deeds," says Wang.
“Internet Civilization is the calling of our time 时代的呼唤. "As such, we must make full use of our ability to "amplify" [information] in order to stimulate positive social energy."
“Wang Gaofei stated that after more than ten years of intense efforts [to penetrate the market] 深耕, we were able to turn more than 200,000 government and media accounts into an important window for information screening and public opinion guidance, with an annual reading volume of nearly 3 trillion impressions. These accounts host more than 80% of the discussions on trending topics.
""Weibo will actively carry out its primary responsibility as a major platform under the leadership of the Party and the government," he said. “It shall mobilize the full force of the platform to strengthen cyberspace governance and network ecology development to contribute to the grand endeavor of creating an Internet Civilization." (Tianjin Daily | h/t Jean Christopher Mittelstaedt)
“To push ahead and lead the world, China must strengthen its international discourse power and rulemaking power in the field of e-justice, as well as realize the effective dissemination of Chinese judicial wisdom and Chinese governance solutions”
According to Professor Yang Li, Deputy Dean of Shanghai Jiao Tong University's China Institute for Social-Legal Studies, China's pioneering work in online litigation gives it the opportunity to set legal standards and norms globally.
For a primer on China’s “e-justice revolution” over the last decade, check out this paper by Dr. Zhuhao Wang.
Full translation of the speech Yang gave at the Internet Civilization Conference:
“The handling of litigations and legal services in China’s online courts is done in an open, transparent, efficient, convenient, and diverse manner. It is a vivid manifestation of General Secretary Xi Jinping's important strategy [思想, lit. "thought" ] of [transforming China into an] "Internet Power" 网络强国 and it provides great convenience for online litigation and online mediation, with remarkable results.
“Hence, having smart courtrooms is more than just a reflection of our national conditions; nor are smart courts intended to serve as "vanity projects" 形象工程 to meet the demands of the central government or impress higher-ups.
“Instead, they ought to be viewed as a daring foray into "no man's land." They have made a significant contribution to the development of the global justice system by moving from a standard practice model to a "Chinese model."
“The online justice system with Chinese characteristics is a world-leading model that contributes Chinese wisdom and provides "Chinese solutions" 中国方案 to the global civilization of the rule of law in the information age.
“To push ahead and lead the world, China must strengthen its international discourse power and rule making power in the field of e-justice. Additionally, it should work for the effective dissemination of Chinese judicial wisdom and Chinese governance solutions.
“Standards should be our entry point for leading the development of international governance and rules for e-justice.
“We must establish and direct the global e-justice evaluation and certification system.
“We shall export and participate in the construction of smart courts around the world using our "technological toolkit."
“We need to tell the China story well by leveraging the transparency, efficiency, and universality of our smart courts.
“We should strengthen China's charm 魅力 and improve China's e-justice system's international communication capacity.
“We shall engage in multilateralism by establishing a regional community for smart court systems.” (People’s Court Daily)
“Tell the story of Chinese civilization well, and let the Chinese concept of civilization in the New Era reverberate powerfully across the Internet”
Mr. Qu Yingpu, the president and editor-in-chief of China Daily, envisions a future in which the "Internet civilizations" of the world engage in reciprocal exchange and mutual enlightenment, with China playing a leading role in pointing them in the right direction.
China Daily is a leading multilingual news platform and daily paper under the Publicity/Propaganda Department.
“Internet Civilization has emerged as a brand-new model that contributes significantly to the evolution of human civilization, the global governance structure, and the economic and social development of nations.
“As we stand at a new crossroads 十字路口 in the evolution of human civilizations, we shall harness the civilizational power of the Internet to help us overcome shared obstacles and progress toward a better future.
“I'd now like to share some thoughts with you on how to strengthen exchange and mutual enrichment within the context of Internet Civilization.
“First and foremost, never forget the "Great One of the Nations" [国之大者, i.e., “Make China Great Again”]. Tell the story of the Chinese Civilization well, and let the Chinese concept of civilization for the New Era reverberate powerfully across the Internet.
“The Chinese people have built for themselves a magnificent civilization over the course of their 5,000-year history that has made a significant contribution to the advancement of human civilization. This is our greatest source of confidence.
“We must be firmly rooted in Chinese soil, better utilize the potential of the Internet and new media, innovate methods and tools, and create cultural IP with international influence.
“As we showcase China's long history and cultural heritage, we should also strive to elaborate on the new form of human civilization opened up by the Chinese-style road to modernization.
“In order for the world to better understand China, the Chinese concept of civilization, the Chinese people, the Communist Party of China, and the Great Chinese nation 中华民族, we must vigorously promote the common values of humanity [全人类共同价值, as opposed to “universal values” 普世价值].
“China Daily has specifically established the "Yuan Studios" 元工作室 to maximize the research findings of the National Chinese Civilization Origin-Tracing (中华文明探源工程 "tanyuan") Project by utilizing new technologies such as the Metaverse (元宇宙 "yuanyuzhou").
“By clearly communicating the connection between the Party's innovative theories, the story of China in the New Era, and the excellent traditional Chinese culture, we contribute to the creation of a credible 可信, lovable 可爱, and respectable 可敬 image of China for the rest of the world to see, thereby fostering our cultural soft power and Chinese cultural influence.
“Second, we adhere to the conviction of “unwavering moral virtue” 无问西东 as we promote civilizational exchange and mutual enrichment, and nourish a cyber space for the excellent achievements of human civilization.
“Throughout history, no mountain was high enough, no valley low enough, and no river was wide enough, to keep any two groups of people apart. Rather, it was the cognitive barriers between us, that over time gave rise to prejudice. Nevertheless, because of its inherent genes and characteristics 基因和特征 of equality, openness, and tolerance, the Internet has emerged as the ideal forum for inter-civilizational dialogue.
“We must maintain an open-minded, inclusive attitude while also respecting the realities of different civilizations. We should effectively tell the story of the exchange and mutual appreciation of Chinese and foreign civilizations, highlight the outstanding civilization achievements of various nationalities around the world, and display the splendid spectacle of harmonious coexistence of different civilizations and the development of multicultural integration.
“In order for civilizational exchanges to be "just one click away" 指尖上 (lit. “at your fingertips”), we must remove "barriers" and "misunderstandings." Intra-civilizational dialogues on the "smart cloud" are the new norm in cyberspace.
“In order for the treasure trove 瑰宝 of Chinese civilization to shine anew in all its splendor 焕发崭新光彩, let innovation take the lead and allow science and technology to facilitate cross-cultural communication.
“Fourth, keep an eye on the future and encourage the younger generation to take an active part and contribute their youthful vigor to the mutual enlightenment between Internet civilizations. As the "aborigines" of the online world, the youth are not only significant contributors, creators, and disseminators of global Internet civilizations, but also the "trendsetters" 弄潮儿.
“In order to contribute to the friendly exchange between China and the outside world and the exchange of civilizations, we must mobilize the power of people of all walks of life and champion the role of youth globally.
“The Internet is an infinite space with room to spare. More than 2,500 nationalities from over 200 countries and regions of the world have all the space they need to fully interact and learn from one another's brilliant civilizations.
“China Daily is eager to collaborate with all of you sitting here today to strengthen exchanges and mutual enrichment between Internet civilizations, as well as to contribute wisdom and strength to realizing the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind.” (China Daily)
“Work hard to vividly and effectively tell the stories of our friendly exchanges, mutual benefits, win-win cooperation, and how we strive to realize our dreams. We will thus highlight the charm and grace of the Chinese and African civilizations”
The Party’s chief propagandist and Politburo member, Mr. Huang Kunming, wants “Chinese and African “civilizations to actively “foster an environment of international public opinion conducive to development and cooperation.”
On Thursday, Huang was the keynote speaker at the 5th Forum on China-Africa Media Cooperation, during which he delivered a letter on behalf of General Secretary Xi Jinping.
The event was co-hosted by the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television (SARFT), the People's Government of Beijing Municipality, and the African Union of Broadcasting (AUB), drawing more than 240 Chinese and foreign participants from over 40 countries and regions.
Before we get to Huang's address, here's more information worth highlighting on the Forum from the excellent Panda Paw Dragon Claw newsletter:
In his address at the forum, CEO of the AUB, Gregoire Ndjaka, noted the training opportunities China has provided to African journalists as one of the most beneficial aspects of the media cooperation relationship. A China Daily article last week stated that over 3,000 African journalists have taken part in such training programs.
While these training programs invariably try to show the most positive sides of China and its development story to participants, there is little evidence that they directly censor the reporting of journalists.
Last year’s Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Dakar promised cooperation on “people-to-people” exchanges, under which media is listed as one example, and on the hardware of digitalization such as internet and 5G infrastructure.
Xi’s address to the FOCAC8 also included a promise to “invite 10,000 high-level African professionals to seminars and workshops” in China.
Following are translated excerpts from Huang’s Thursday address:
“In the ten years since the Forum on China-Africa Media Cooperation was established, the Chinese and African media have maintained mutual respect. We have achieved tremendous results and gained valuable experience because of our mutual sincerity, solidarity, and cooperation, as well as our joint efforts to uphold justice and win-win cooperation for the benefit of the people.
“Looking ahead, China is eager to collaborate with the African side to strengthen Sino-African friendship and promote people-to-people ties. Work hard to vividly and effectively tell the stories of our friendly exchanges, mutual benefits, win-win cooperation, and how we strive to realize our dreams. We will thus highlight the charm and grace of the Chinese and African civilizations.
“We shall accept the Mission of our Times 时代使命 to advance global development, tenaciously upholding the common* values of mankind, and actively fostering an environment of international public opinion favorable to development and cooperation.
“We will encourage innovation and integration, deepen practical cooperation, strengthen exchanges, and share opportunities in digital technology and the digital economy, so as to bridge the digital divide and improve our digital governance capabilities.” (Xinhua News Agency)
*[as in the previous entry, 全人类共同价值, as opposed to “universal values” 普世价值]
Playing in the Background
Discourse Power is written by Tuvia Gering, a researcher at the Israel-China Policy Center at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), a non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Global China Hub, and a Tikvah’s Krauthammer Fellow, specializing in Chinese security and foreign policy, and emergency and disaster management. Any views expressed in this newsletter, as well as any errors, are solely those of the author. Follow Tuvia on Twitter @GeringTuvia