China’s Internet Governance under the Leadership of Xi Jinping

//Dr. Jian Xu, a visiting scholar with the Center for Global Communication Studies and the Center for the Study of Contemporary China, analyzes the government’s role in China’s internet governance and law-making, with a special focus on policy developments under Xi Jinping’s ruling.

Since Xi Jiping began his presidency in November 2012, the Chinese government has tightened their control of media — rather a surprise to those who expected political and judiciary reform.  In April, the New Yorker journalist Evan Osnos called Xi “the most authoritarian leader since Mao,” in regards to his treatment of internet governance, among other issues.  This blog post focuses on the role of the state in governing the internet, and does not focus on the roles other actors (corporate entities and civil society) play in internet governance. It will discuss various restrictions on the internet under Xi’s leadership, including key policies, regulations, and events, as well as the impacts of such actions.

Immediately after Xi took office, China started expanding its oversight of the internet. In December 2012, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress issued the Decision on Strengthening Network Information Protection, new rules requiring internet users to provide real identity information to internet service providers (ISPs) while signing a service agreement for internet access. The Decision also requires internet service providers to work more closely with the government’s internet regulations and censorship, including deleting politically sensitive postings, reporting those who post such material to relevant authorities, and providing necessary technical support to the government. On the surface, the Decision appears to protect users’ security and information. However, because a real name (or pseudonym) is required to access the internet, netizens are afraid to post critical information online.

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