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Not many countries control the internet as strictly as China. Politically sensitive content is censored, social media services like Facebook, Twitter and Google are blocked. Under Party and state leader Xi Jinping China took these restrictions even further – by passing a series of new regulations and by setting up the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC).
The latest China Monitor "Information Control 2.0: The Cyberspace Administration of China tames the internet" by MERICS researcher Nabil Alsabah sheds light on this little known and internationally unique state agency.
Cyberspace has always presented the CCP with a difficult challenge: How can the Party tame the internet without jeopardising the economic opportunities of the digital age? To address this Herculean task, President Xi decided in late 2013 to set up the Cyberspace Administration of China. His vision was for the CAC to work toward a grand strategy for China’s cyberspace.
The CAC presents itself as the architect-in-chief of China’s cyber strategy. But Alsabah argues that economic regulation of the internet is mostly left to other government agencies while the CAC focuses on censorship and propaganda. The CAC has been behind stricter rules to control internet users and online journalists. It is also an important player in the Party-wide effort of adapting the propaganda apparatus to the digital age.
Domestically, the CAC is an important pillar of China’s IT-backed authoritarianism, i.e. the state’s application of cutting-edge information and communication technology to sustain China’s one-party rule. Internationally, the CAC promotes Xi’s vision of “cyber sovereignty”, according to which each country should have the right to draft and enact its own cyber regulations. This concept has the potential to become a model for other authoritarian countries, warns Alsabah.
You can download the MERICS China Monitor here.