Such is my conclusion after reading China Digital Times' translation of notes taken at a SCIO (State Council Information Office) training session attended by Peng Bo , Deputy Chief of the State Council Information Office Internet Affairs Bureau. Let's do a run down:
1) Government-driven discrimination against foreign companies out of fear of foreign influence -
Commercial websites must understand that it is the government that protects the development of domestic websites. If the Chinese internet didn’t have Xinlang, then Yahoo would have free rein; if there was no Baidu, then Google would have free rein; if there was no QQ, then MSN would have free rein. All of this is because the government is intentionally fostering domestic enterprises.
2) Attempts by the Chinese government to censor and control the effect of Obama's visit -
Criticize Sina for not thinking politically; when reporting on Obama’s visit to China, they played without authorization a video of Obama speaking in Shanghai.
The most important part of Obama’s visit to China was his speech in Shanghai. The format of this speech was different than the speech format used by past U.S. presidents when visiting China. It was specially designed by the U.S. government to enlarge Obama’s personal influence.
Before Obama visited China, America and China negotiated that websites and television stations would broadcast the event. China accepted their request; however, live television coverage was to be limited to Shanghai area television stations.
These measures were implemented to accord with the central government’s desire that people become enthused about China-U.S. relations rather than be enthused about Obama.
Providing a video of Obama’s speech without authorization was done for Sina’s commercial interest and was not done for the nation’s interest. In order to gain a little, a lot was lost.
3) Government censorship of overseas news reports felt not to be 'correct' (i.e., not negative) -
Criticize Netease for going after sensational stories and not doing a good job of directing public opinion. [Neatease's] international news headlines are always things like “New York Mayor Bloomberg Receives Annual Salary of $1”, “Black American Becomes Mayor”, “American Youth Becomes Mayor”. These headlines are sensationalist and cast aspersions [on the Chinese government]. [Netease] has set the wrong direction for public opinion and has not properly fulfilled its role as a guide [of public opinion]
Note the fact that positive foreign news is felt to be critical of the Chinese government. This was reinforced by Li Wufeng, Bureau Chief of the State Council Information Office Internet Affairs Bureau, in his talk at the same training session:
2. Currently, the online republishing of news stories has the following major problems:
2.1 Republishing articles from small papers and publications, even republishing articles from the foreign press.
2.2 The online news phenomenon of “news laundering” [i.e., getting a domestic publication to print news from a banned source and then quoting it] is still serious. Sometimes standard news sources do not even carry the story [that the republishing source claimed the standard news source published].
2.3 Intentionally posting unpermitted content on interactive interfaces (forums, blogs).
2.4 Small newspapers and websites republish each others’ stories, creating media hype. For example, the Deng Yujiao [official killed by waitress defending herself against rape] incident and the Hangzhou street race [well connected young man uses influence to escape serious charges related to hit-and-run killing] case.
Assuming these notes accurately reflect what was said at the training session, this is pure dynamite. It shows that the government's influencing, censorship and 'net nannying' of the Chinese internet is pervasive, and driven by a paranoid view of the media, both foreign and domestic. I 'm looking forward to reading the translated notes from the other official's talks.