In a speech given to a “seminar” attended by top provincial-level leaders in China over the weekend, Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡锦涛) called on Party officials to strengthen management and control of the Internet. Hu’s speech was initially reported at the top of QQ.com, one of China’s most popular Internet news sites, with the headline, “Hu Jintao in Address to Provincial Leaders: Web Controls Must Be Strengthened.” The headline — presumably a bit too truthful for Web censors — was quickly changed to, “Hu Jintao in Address to Provincial Leaders: Strengthen and Improve Social Management.”
Responding to Hu Jintao’s speech through China’s major Twitter-like microblog services, or “weibo,” some Chinese interpreted his language as a response to recent political unrest in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East.
In the address, Hu Jintao said:
The fundamental goal in strengthening and renewing social controls [or “management”] is the preservation of social order, the promotion of a harmonious society and ensuring people live and work in peace and contentment, creating a favorable social environment for the conduct and development of national undertakings. The basic tasks of social control include coordinating social relationships, regulating social behavior, resolving social issues, dissolving social tensions, promoting social fairness, dealing with social risks and ensuring social stability. Doing an adequate job of social control and promoting social harmony is a basic precondition of the comprehensive building of a moderately well-off society and the development of socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
Defining the basics of his social control strategy, Hu Jintao presented his so-called “eight opinions” (８点意见), each dealing with specific aspects of control, such as “increasing the social management capacity of the government” and “improving the social management and service system at the grassroots level.”
Point number seven on Hu’s list dealt specifically with Internet controls. It read: “[We must] further strengthen and improve controls on the information web, raising our level of control over virtual society, and perfecting our mechanisms for the channeling of public opinion online.”