CAC chief Zhuang Rongwen.

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), the country’s central agency for internet control and regulation, has now released its list of top ten keywords for 2021. True to form, the office does not go for excitement.

The CAC listicle does not include popular buzzword superstars like the zeitgeisty “lying flat” (躺平) or “broken defenses” (破防), terms expressing a rising sense of social exhaustion. Nor does it fuss with terms like “double reduction” (双减) marking the government’s attempts to grapple with the pressures weighing on Chinese families. How about crackdowns on so-called “fandom culture,” or fanquan wenhua (饭圈文化)? Nope, not a mention.

The CAC’s 2021 buzzword list is all business. Party business, to be precise. The fundamental message is the power and legitimacy of the CCP, and its need to maintain control of cyberspace. For starters, here are the top three:

  1. “Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the CCP” (庆祝中国共产党成立100周年)
  2. “Party history study and education” (党史学习教育)
  3. “6th Plenum of the 19th CCP Central Committee” (党的十九届六中全会)

Please stop, you are saying. These keywords are just too exhilarating.

The third term above is important, of course, because it was at the 6th Plenum that the CCP released its new resolution on its history, just the third such document since the Party was founded over a century ago. The crus of the Resolution of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party on the Major Achievements and Historical Experiences of the Party’s Hundred-Year Struggle (中共中央关于党的百年奋斗重大成就和历史经验的决议) is its positioning of Xi Jinping as the Party’s unassailable chief, paving the way for the possible elevation of his banner term as “Xi Jinping Thought” and his continued leadership through the coming decade.

But the Party is missing, in name at least, from the fourth term on the CAC list: “online civilization” (网络文明). The CAC notes that “as our country marches toward becoming a cyber power (网络强国), the building of online civilization is an aspect that cannot be overlooked.” This keyword makes the list because China hosted its first “Internet Civilization Conference” on November 19, 2021, the crux of the meeting being the imperative of CCP speech controls. Read more in CMP’s “Civilizing Cyberspace.”

Number five on the CAC list, “community of shared destiny in cyberspace” (网络空间命运共同体), turns toward the international dimension of the CCP’s ambition to exercise greater influence over internet development and governance. Related to Xi Jinping’s foreign policy concept of a “community of shared destiny for mankind,” this phrase is about promoting international co-operation and development in the area of digital technology – particularly in Africa and the Asia-Pacific. It is also about countering attempts by the United States to coalesce action against China over issues such as 5G infrastructure security (wink, Huawei).

The CAC list noted the hosting on November 29, 2021, of the 8th Forum’ on China-Africa Cooperation, held in Dakar, Senegal, at which participants – said the CAC – had heartily approved of China’s released of its Action Initiative on Building a Community of Destiny in Cyberspace Together (携手构建网络空间命运共同体行动倡议). The initiative’s first principal is “respect for the cyber-sovereignty of each country” (尊重各国网络主权), which is fundamentally about shaping the global governance of cyberspace in order to legitimize China’s tighter controls over information.

Interested in the rest of the CAC list? See it here.

CMP Staff

The China Media Project

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