This article by Lieutenant-General Li Dianren of the National Defence University was published first in the Chinese Journal of Social Science, and republished on Seeking Truth online, on 15 June.
General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out that cybersecurity and informatization are two wings of one bird and two wheels of one cart, they must be uniformly planned, uniformly deployed, uniformly moved forward and uniformly implemented. In constructing a strong network country, we must, together with strengthening informatization construction and guaranteeing the security of information infrastructure, give high regard to building a social governance system for the network, guarantee ideological cybersecurity, and incessantly strengthen our capacity to protect cybersecurity.
I, We must put safeguarding ideological cybersecurity in an equally important position as safeguarding information technology security.
As everyone knows, computers and the Internet all originate in the United States, the absolute majority of core elements and equipment, and the most central computer software services also come from the United States and other Western countries. They use developed network technology methods to closely control the global information network, and hold an absolutely superior position in development in the area of information technology. “Prism”, “X-Key Score” and other such surveillance plans have already come to light, confirming that the capacity and scale of the United States’ cyber activity vastly exceeds the imagination of people worldwide. The US Army openly established a joint cyber warfare command, especially in charge of penetrating, monitoring and destroying other countries’ network systems. Looking back at our country, we are largely reliant on import for those central network components such as core processors and crucial chips. Because of this, to safeguard cybersecurity, we must safeguard security at the level of information technology.
Equally important as safeguarding information technology security is safeguarding ideological cybersecurity. The former aims for hard power, the latter fights in soft disputes. Together, these two constitute two indispensible sides of cybersecurity. At present, some Western countries rely on their “network information superiority”, to change the network into a main channel to penetrate and destroy other countries, export Western ideology on a large scale, preach Western political systems and models, slander and attack other countries’ political systems and value views, vigorously conduct “peaceful evolution” and carry out “colour revolutions”, and direct one “smokeless war” after another. To some extent, ideological penetration has become one of the main forms of Western “netwar”, it is the same as “hard destruction” based on information technology, and it constitutes a grave challenge to target countries’ cybersecurity and national security.
Because of China’s characteristic political system and development path, and in addition, the fact that China is in a specific historical stage of transformation from large to strong, it is perceived as a threat to the interests of large countries. Because of this, some Western forces have made China into the focus point of online ideological infiltration and attack. John Huntsman, a former US ambassador to China, has openly stated in domestic arguments that it is necessary to vie with China for the new generation of Internet netizens, that he hopes to bring change to China’s political system by influencing them, in order to topple China. The former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has also repeatedly made speeches concerning Internet freedom, attacking China’s Internet policies, even inflaming people and stirring up trouble, in an attempt to draw in a number of Internet enterprises to resist our country’s network management policies. In view of this, we naturally are driven to the most forward position in the ideological struggle. This is an objective fact.
Exactly because the Internet has become a main ideological battlefield, we must pay attention to ideological cybersecurity in the same way that we pay attention to information technology security. It may be said that, without cybersecurity, there is no national security; without ideological cybersecurity, there is no security of the national political system, and prolonged order and stability in the national governing system, as well as harmony and stability become empty words.
II, In safeguarding ideological cybersecurity, the key lies in perfecting the governing system for the network society
Our country has 564 million netizens and 420 million mobile network users, it is the country with the largest Internet-using population in the world. The network has become a virtual society worthy of the name. In governing societies, institutions have a fundamental, comprehensive and long-term role, and we must perfect social governance structures. Equally, to govern the Internet and safeguard cybersecurity, we must without doubt make advanced technology and excellent equipment into a focus material basis, but we must at the same time also make legal and regulatory structures into institutional guarantees for them. Especially in the area of safeguarding ideological cybersecurity, technological measures can only have a supplementary role, we must progressively formulate and implement a set of mature and well-developed structures for network management through perfecting network society governance systems, before the role of institutions can be given free rein, and guarantee the initiative in the online ideological struggle, at the same time as effectively guaranteeing the development of the network society.
To perfect the network society governance system, we must incessantly standardize all regulatory structures for cybersecurity, and ensure that there are laws to rely on. At present, our country’s ideological information dissemination is wholly free and open, different ideas and discourses can be effectively expressed on the network. But we cannot permit mistaken discourse or thinking trends that harm national security and endanger social stability to flood the network because we want to protect online freedom and advocate overall inclusiveness. We must unwaveringly strengthen network legislation and governance, and create norms for discourse involving ideology and especially involving the basic system of the Party and the country. In this area, the US is our “teacher”. Even though the US consistently boasts about freedom and democracy, that does not mean that individuals can use the Internet without restrictions. In fact, the United States is the first country in the world to create rules for and manage Internet content. Since 1978, the US successively rolled out the “Telecommunications Act”, the “Telecommunications Content Propriety Act” and 130 other laws and regulations involving Internet management, which clearly stipulate that the government has the power to inspect content involving national security, prohibit use of the Internet to propagate racist, terrorist and other such discourse, and prohibit the dissemination of discourse threatening the President and national security on the Internet. In fact, the US has also brought some people who propagate left-wing ideas and especially Communist ideas into the scope of focused investigation. On the one hand, the United States use social media networks to play the part of pushers behind the curtains in the upheavals in West Asia, North Africa, Ukraine, etc.; on the other hand, the head of the US Department for Homeland Security, Karen Wagner, has stated at a conference for homeland security and national defence that, because it has been seen that social media networks have had a great role in the upheavals in West Asia and North Africa, this body had begun to draft new laws and regulations to supervise Twitter, Facebook and other such social network websites. This shows that on the one hand, the US attempts to cause “leading the disastrous flood eastwards” through ideologically penetration, and on the other hand attempts to guarantee that the disastrous floods is not led into their own houses through legislation. These facts also show that managing Internet content as things happen, has a grave artificial flavour, and it is very hard to control the extent to which it happens, this can be resolved through legislation, which creates standards and bases [to act].
“In the affairs of All under Heaven, are not difficult to legislate, but it is difficult to ensure the implementation of the law”. To perfect network society governance systems, we must also give rein to the hart constraining power of institutions, and ensure that there are laws to rely on. We must earnestly implement localized management and the demands of “who manages is responsible” and “who runs a business is responsible”, integrate administrative management with sector self-discipline and public discipline, and guarantee that existing laws and regulations can be implemented. A trend that merits attention at present is that some commercial Internet portal website, under the pressure of market competition, and with the aim of profit maximization, disregard their social responsibilities and national security, and take a pragmatic attitude towards network laws and regulations, they implement those laws beneficial to them, and do not implement those not beneficial to them. Specifically, they clearly know that some Weibo Big Vs are attacking the Party and the government on a great scale, they wantonly vilify the history of the Party, the military and the revolution, and because they have large numbers of fans, and because they can create hot topics, they bring hit rates and microblog liveliness rates, because of this, they are not only stopped and corrected according to the requirements of relevant management departments, on the contrary, they are supported and winked at in secret. There is also a small number of Internet management officials who, in order to earn a so-called “clean name”, are not seriousness to the severity of the online ideological struggle, and open one eye and close the other vis-a-vis violation of laws and regulations. This sort of short-sighted acts of having laws but not relying on them, not enforcing the law strictly, and not punishing law-breakers can only assist unlawful phenomena online, disorder the online ideological spectrum, and destroy the governing system of online society, this must be firmly rectified.
III, To strengthen network society management, we must deal well with the relation between dynamism and order.
General Secretary Xi Jinping has analysed the dialectical relationship between dynamism and order at many occasions, pointing out that social governance is a science, manage it too rigidly, it will become a pool of stagnant water, this will not do; manage it too loosely, there will be turbulent undercurrents, this will also not doo. To guarantee ideological cybersecurity and strengthen network society governance, we must equally deal well with the relationship between order and dynamism. One large characteristic of the network society is its openness and dynamic nature. On the one hand, we must strengthen ideological security management, and ensure that an orderly development situation emerges; but on the other hand, we can also not manage matters immoderately and without limits, and even smother the vitality and development of the Internet.
First and foremost, we should conduct categorized management on the basis of different situations. Looking from the general situation in the online ideological and public opinion area, there are only three sorts of content: one kind is red content, which propagates mainstream Party and State ideology, it echoes the Socialist core value system, and disseminates positive energy; the second is grey content, which propagates non-mainstream ideology, and corresponds to pluralized interests pursuits and all sorts of social thinking trends, but does not directly threaten mainstream ideology; the third is lack content, which propagates the ideology of Western hostile forces in order to attack the basic system and ideology of the Party and the State, magnify the system’s flaws and the dark side of society, and even creates and disseminates rumours. In response to these three different kinds of content, network society management must adopt different countermeasures. Red content must be vigorously supported. Grey content must be vigorously guided under the precondition of “letting a hundred schools contend and a hundred flowers bloom”. Concerning black content, we must dare to use the weapon of the law to constrain and control it; where there are deliberate acts of rumour-mongering to create trouble, we must seek out the people and punish them according to the law.
Furthermore, we must actively broaden the space for online activities concerning mainstream ideology. At the same time as controlling anti-mainstream ideology, we must expand, strengthen and enliven mainstream ideology dissemination work, and guide a plural, diverse and changeable online public opinion with a positive voice. In this area, the Party’s ideological workers and management departments absolutely must have a sense of crisis. To a certain degree, since a while, the reason why the trend of a flood of anti-mainstream ideology emerged online is greatly related to the fact that our party’s ideological workers did not understand the network, did not know the network, were not able to deal with the network and did not touch the network, and is greatly related with the fact that our Party’s ideological management departments used traditional paper media methods as a way to control new media. Next, ideological workers must act actively, act vigorously, learn to use the net, be good at using the net, use methods that netizens like to see and hear, to propagate the correct standpoint, display the spirit of the times, and lead the way in moral fashions. Management departments must adapt to the characteristics of new media, on the one hand, they must incessantly reduce the space for mistaken discourse, on the other hand, they must be good at discovering and expanding the “beautiful online events” and the “tear-drawing emotions” on social media networks, present “ordinary heroes”, propagate “the most beautiful people”, propose “the most beautiful spirits”, strive to carry forward the correct social wind, foster a new spirit of civilization and increase the dynamism and energy of the network society.
Finally, we must strengthen protection of regular expressions of the popular will online. As a sort of modern dissemination tool, network and new media generally speaking promote social progress. The final objective of our launching the online ideological struggle is further promoting the development and flourishing of the network society on the basis of safeguarding cybersecurity. Because of this, in line with the spirit of the rule of law where “what the law does not prohibit, is permitted”, and under the precondition of abiding by laws and regulations, we must absolutely enliven online ideas, be good at using the enthusiasm of netizens, and perfect mechanisms for online expression. Especially, we cannot suppress spontaneous online anti-corruption, online supervision as well as regular online topical discussion on the basis of safeguarding ideological security. We must believe that the broad netizens and popular masses have the ability to distinguish right and wrong and an awareness of upholding justice, even if they are duped for a short while, whenever they understand the truth, they will make correct judgments and persist in the correct positions. This bearing of our Communist Party is to believe in the masses and rely on the asses, let the masses educate themselves in practice, improve themselves, and become the masters of the network. Concerning common disputes and confused understanding online, we must still rely on the force of the truth of Marxism, rely on deep and detailed online ideology and political work, rely on the penetrating insights of the masses, use the truth to expose lies, let science vanquish falsehoods, bring back a clear wind of justice to the network, and ensure that the network is cleaned up.
IV, We must strengthen computer system research, development and technological innovation, and fundamentally grasp the initiative
Cybersecurity protection is very important, but the most central matter is still construction. At present, the computer software and hardware systems, network technology standards and agreements that we use are basically all imported, even through we have conducted indigenous innovation ourselves, and have created a number of peripheral equipment and application software ourselves, we have not made great breakthroughs in crucial and core technologies, and are still controlled by others in many areas. For instance, the internal code of computer operating systems is not open, and we are not clear about which activities go on inside, whether or not they leave backdoors and Trojans. Even if we add firewalls or encryption devices ourselves, this is only internal protection, and in a certain way, its external protection capacity is limited. It is like a house, the materials, the structure and the blueprints are all someone else’s, furthermore, they are not open, and home owners’ reliance on the security effect of anti-theft doors and anti-theft windows is limited. The Windows XP system, produced by the American company Microsoft, was withdrawn on 8 April, but the market share of XP in our country is higher than 70%, there are more than 200 million computers that still use the XP system. Microsoft stated that: if you continue to use XP, even if the computer may still work, it may easily face security risks and be subjected to virus attacks. Ni Guangnan, a member of the Engineering Institute of China, stated that: the cessation of XP services is a “major information security incident”. Clearly, our users are “forced” to upgrade to the newest Microsoft system, they are “kidnapped” by Microsoft’s robber mentality. Because of this, in order to fundamentally strengthen network information security and grasp the initiative, we should accelerate the pace at which domestically produced software and hardware replaces [imports], exert great efforts to conduct computer system and network information system research, development and technological innovation, create and invent systems of our own, and formulate standards the conform to our own interests, only then will we be able to fundamentally upgrade the reliability and protection of national information security. Even though this task is greatly difficult, and it will require a long time, it is a threshold we cannot invade, stairs we must climb, this must be earnestly and strategically planned and concretely implemented
(The author is a lieutenant general and professor at the PLA National Defence University)