From ‘Chinanet’ to ‘Internet Sovereignty’: Historical Development of China’s Internet Policy

Leshuo Dong is a Ph.D. candidate specializing in international communication at the School of Journalism and Communication at Tsinghua University in China. She is currently working with CGCS’s Internet Policy Observatory (IPO) conducting research on Chinese internet foreign policy.

At the end of 2013, with over half a billion people connected online, China boasted the world’s largest online population and became one of the most prominent global Internet actors. The past two decades witnessed not only China’s rise as a great power in Internet infrastructure and technology, breeding a booming digital industry, but also the country’s establishment and development of the most sophisticated information control system.

Chinese Internet use began in 1987, but full Internet service connecting China with the world was not provided until 1994 (Liu, 2012). Exponential increases in Internet usage since then have driven Internet regulation through multiple government entities. Before analyzing the specific discourse the Chinese government uses to frame the Internet, it is necessary to review the historical development of China’s Internet policies. This development, which will be discussed in seven phases, reveals the evolution and rationales underlying China’s Internet policy…

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