China’s State Internet Information Office (国家互联网信息办公室), also known as the “China Internet Information Office,” held a meeting in Beijing yesterday under the formal topic of “positively using microblogs to serve society” (积极运用微博客服务社会). The meeting signals again that China’s government is exploring measures to reign in domestic social media.
In recent months Chinese microblogs such as Sina Weibo and QQ Weibo have had a clear impact in shaping national news stories and gathering public interest and attention around sensitive social and political issues, from China’s high-speed rail collision to charity-related scandals and even recently the detention of blind activist Chen Guangcheng (陈光诚).
Established by the General Office of the State Council in May 2011, the State Internet Information Office is an attempt to centralize the management and control of internet content in China, a function that in the past was performed by an array of government offices — with, for example, the State Council Information Office handling text-based online news and video content remaining the responsibility of the State Administration of Radio Film and Television. The State Internet Information Office is run by Wang Chen (王晨), who concurrently serves as a deputy minister of the Central Propaganda Department.
At yesterday’s meeting, Wang Chen emphasized that “[we] must thoroughly apply a series of guiding spirits of the central Party in regards to internet construction, development and management, keeping to the guiding principle of ‘positive use, scientific development, management by rule of law and ensuring safety’ . . . ” Wang said the government must “thoroughly give play to the positive role of microblogs in serving society, taking concrete steps to develop and manage [them], working together to preserve a healthy and orderly online communication order, serving the overall work of the government and the Party, and serving the masses.”
According to a report from Xinhua News Agency, representatives from various companies and local government offices also spoke at the meeting yesterday to share their experiences using official and personal microblogs to promote their own messages, making them “new channels for serving the people.” Guo Mingyi (郭明义), a manager at a mining company, reportedly told the audience how he had used his personal microblog account “as a new platform to promote and praise the spirit of [nationwide propaganda exemplar] Lei Feng (雷锋).”