Information Armament in China
By Colonel R Hariharan
In the biggest cleanup since Covid-19 was brought under control, China has recently launched a multi-pronged regulatory crackdown in a wide range of industries, creating many uncertainties. This can be interpreted as the Communist Party of China (CCP) in the way that President Xi Jinping reminds the tech giants and other big companies that are making the decisions.
According to China’s observer and author, Deter Tiff Roberts: “Beijing intends to strengthen control over private companies and foreign investment”, reserving shares in essential sectors such as semiconductors for domestic use and promoting the role of state-owned companies. . More importantly, regulators also appear to be concerned about the younger population deviating from the “patriotic path” under the influence of foreign-controlled online media.
President Xi Jinping established the rules of conduct for the use of cyberspace for the computerization process as early as February 2014, in his speech to the Central Cybersecurity and Informatization Group (CCSIG). He said: “The Internet is not an outlaw place. Using the Internet to promote the overthrow of state power, instigate religious extremism, promote national separatism, instigate violent terrorist activities, etc., such behavior must be stopped and addressed, and must not be allowed to prevail. “
He added that the use of the Internet to carry out fraudulent activities, spread pornographic material, carry out personal attacks, sell illegal items, etc. it must be “resolutely controlled” and must not be allowed to prevail. This would indicate that the militarization of information was always on the CCP’s agenda.
At the same meeting, Jinping called the Internet’s core technology “our greatest hidden danger, as the core technology is restricted by others.” It compared any internet company that relies heavily on foreign countries with the building blocks that rely heavily on foreign countries where the livelihood of the supply chain is in the hands of others. He said it was like building a house on someone else’s wall, no matter how big and beautiful it was. It may not be able to withstand wind and rain, and it may even be vulnerable. He said that “if we want to take the lead in our country’s Internet development and ensure Internet security and national security, we must overcome the core technological problem and strive to achieve ‘overtake curves’ in certain areas and aspects.”
A few days ago, Yahoo Inc. pulled out of China, citing an increasingly challenging operating environment. In a statement, the Internet service provider said: “In recognition of the increasingly challenging business and legal environment in China, Yahoo’s suite of services will no longer be accessible from mainland China as of November 1.” Yahoo’s withdrawal is largely symbolic, as China’s digital censorship has already blocked many of its services.
The entertainment industry in China has been asked to avoid entertainers with “wrong political positions”, strictly enforce salary caps for actors and cultivate a “patriotic atmosphere” for the industry. It’s part of the state’s efforts to crush celebrity fan culture. The sale of fan products has already been banned.
Gaming companies have also faced the ire of regulators who placed restrictions on the amount of time players under the age of 18 can spend playing online games on weekends and holidays to curb gaming addiction.
China has already started tightening the rules for large information technology companies. Last year, he halted at the last minute the planned IPO of Ant Group, a giant Internet finance company in New York. Now, it is developing rules to ban Internet companies, whose data presents potential risks of listing outside the country.
Cloud computing also faces uncertainties, as China is building its own state-backed cloud system that will likely challenge tech giants like Alibaba, Huawei, and Tencent Holdings. The state also seeks to strengthen oversight of algorithms that technology companies, including e-commerce companies and social media platforms, use for target users. The Cyberspace Administration of China has said that companies should uphold business ethics and fairness principles and should establish algorithm models that do not incite users to spend large amounts.
The Chinese government has also introduced regulations to prohibit private tutoring companies from raising capital abroad. The rules say that tutoring centers must register as non-profit businesses. Now they will not offer subjects that are taught in public schools; Classes are prohibited on weekends and holidays. China has a highly competitive educational system like India; This has made tutoring services popular with parents.
The banking sector has issued regulations to strengthen the control of online loans by finance companies. China’s Cyberspace Administration has asked Didi Chuxing, the leading passenger transport company, to stop accepting new users after it went public on the New York Stock Exchange last June. Financial regulators have already put the brakes on the cryptocurrency sector, preventing banks and online payment companies from using cryptocurrencies. Provincial governments have also banned the use of cryptocurrencies. The government is also solving the problem of the property management sector to improve order. Efforts are underway to curb rampant borrowing in the real estate sector; Limits have been imposed on loans from real estate developers and on real estate loans from banks.
In this turbulent environment, we can expect China to tighten control of the media, both at home and abroad. Last March, a report by the Foreign Correspondents Club of China (FCCC) said that China used coronavirus prevention measures, intimidation and visa restrictions to limit foreign reporting in 2020, ushering in a “rapid decline in freedom press “. The FCCC’s annual report said in the 150 responses it received for the third year in a row that no journalists said that working conditions had improved. The report read: “All weapons of state power, including surveillance systems introduced to curb the coronavirus, were used to harass and intimidate journalists, their Chinese colleagues and those whom the foreign press intended to interview.
The BBC’s Beijing correspondent John Sudworth reported that in addition to the heavy restrictions it places on foreign journalists trying to report the truth about the far west regions of Xinjiang, China used the new tactic to label independent coverage as ” fake news. ” He had reported on his own experience of intimidation by unidentified persons while traveling on the roads of the Xinjiang desert. They were forced to leave a city by kicking them out of restaurants and shops, ordering the owners not to serve them. His report on thousands of Uyghurs and other minorities forced to pick cotton based on China’s own political documents was called “fake news” by the media run by the Communist Party of China.
On the other hand, the results of a global survey conducted by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) of its affiliated unions showed that China had used the Covid-19 pandemic to improve its image in global media coverage. More than half of the countries surveyed in 2020 said that China’s coverage in their national media has been more positive since the onset of the pandemic. The Chinese were probably taking a more interventionist approach to local media coverage of China.
The report also said that more than 80% of countries were concerned about misinformation in their national media, although only a third of them said China was responsible for it.
The report said that when the pandemic began to spread, China activated the existing media infrastructure it had placed globally to seek positive narratives about China in the national media and used novel tactics such as disinformation. This is not surprising, since for the past two decades, China has been reshaping the global environment to expand the reach of its own portion of state media in tandem with its growing global reach.
According to IFJ, China appeared to have increased its own national and international news offerings tailored to each country in languages other than English. This is significant as the international media struggled to survive due to the adverse decline of the Covid-19 pandemic in the economy.
We can expect China’s media strategy to be in full swing in national and international media, making it difficult to separate real news from fake news as it has weaponized the media. The latest example is the Financial Times report that China had tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile last August. He said the weapon “went around the world before accelerating toward its target.” However, China denied the report, saying it was an experimental spacecraft and not a weapon.
The Financial Times report cited “five people familiar with the test” as saying that the rocket carrying the hypersonic glide vehicle flying in low space orbit missed the target for “about two dozen miles.” The report said the test showed that China had made “astonishing progress” and wondered why the United States often underestimated China’s military modernization. Whether China actually conducted the hypersonic missile test or not, the report has compounded global paranoia about China’s capabilities because hypersonic missiles can penetrate the missile shield.
—The writer is a retired South Asian military intelligence specialist associated with the Chennai Center for China Studies