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Xi Jinping Centralizes Power by Heading the Internet Control Group

Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang are tightening their grip on the regime to guard against Jiang Zemin’s faction, meanwhile, in spite of all the effort to suppress freedom of speech and the many barriers on the Internet, Internet censorship circumvention tools are thriving. (Photo by Rolex Dela Pena-Pool/Getty Images) 2014-02-28 07:59 PM EST
Following the establishment of the State Security Committee and the Comprehensively Deepening Reform Team, Beijing launched a third organ, the Central Internet Security and Informatization Leading Group, headed by Xi Jinping. Premier Li Keqiang and Politburo Standing Committee Liu Yunshan are the group’s deputy heads. What does this new group mean to the world? How should we comprehend Li’s additional title? Let’s take a look.

This newly established organ headed by Xi Jinping, known as the Central Internet Security and Informatization Leading Group, held its first meeting in Beijing on Feb. 27, with Li Keqiang and Liu Yunshan serving as deputy heads.

This is the third governmental organ established by the central regime this year, after the two state level organs established on Jan. 22 and 24, respectively – the State Security Committee
and the Comprehensively Deepening Reform Team.

Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang are both leading the State Security Committee and the Comprehensively Deepening Reform Team as the head and deputy head, respectively. Liu Yunshan sits third in rank on the Comprehensively Deepening Reform Team.

As for the newly established Internet security organ, Liu Yunshan, the head of central propaganda, was pushed to third in command.

Commentator Xia Xiaoqiang analyses that this arrangement shows Liu Yunshan’s weakened authority in propaganda. This is how Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang are tightening their grip on the regime to guard against Jiang Zemin’s faction.

Commentator Xia Xiaoqiang: "Through the establishment of the State Security Committee and the Comprehensively Deepening Reform Team, power in Central Politics and Law Commission (CPLC) was taken back from the Jiang faction. The division of the CPLC during Jiang’s era changed, and subsequently the central power structure was reformed under the leadership of Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang. The propaganda system, which oversees cyber space security,
has had a significant role in the power distribution within the regime. It has been dominated by the Jiang faction, as previously headed by Li Changchun and the incumbent Liu Yunshan."

Prior to this, the Central Discipline Inspection Commission issued rare criticism of the state mouthpiece Xinhua News Agency. Xia Xiaoqiang indicates that this movement signals the intention of the central to purge the propaganda system.

Xia Xiaoqiang: "The 2013 Southern Weekly Incident embarrassed Xi Jinping and sparked public outcry. In April 2013, Liu Yunshan had engaged in a media war with Xi in abolishment of the labor camp system. Liu Yunshan ordered that all all reports revealing sinister inside stories of Masanjia labor camp be deleted. This secret order issued by the Central Propaganda Department was exposed: ‘No report, citation, or comment on any relevant issues regarding Masanjia labor camp.’ I expect after Xi and Li take over the Internet security organ, both Liu Yunshan and the Central Propaganda Department will be faced with weakened power. The Jiang faction will gradually lose authority over propaganda."

This year marks the 20th anniversary since the Chinese gained access to the Internet. According to a China Internet Network Information Center report, by the end of 2013, there were over 600 million Chinese netizens.

The 2013 Annual Report on Human Rights Practices released by the U.S. State Department on Feb. 27 addressed the CCP’s continued increasing efforts to monitor Internet use, and has fueled a state-directed crackdown on activists and suppression of political dissent and public advocacy.

Chinese Internet writer Jing Chu believes the massive effort to control the free flow of information over the Internet tells the world that the CCP has gone ideologically bankrupt.

Chinese Internet writer Jing Chu: "They have been very concerned and very guilty, and that’s why they have to find ways to control the taxpayers’ opinions. They are in a state of hysteria and lack confidence. Free speech allows for a vibrant society. This regime has come to a dead end when they show fear upon people’s remarks."

In spite of all the effort to suppress freedom of speech and the many barriers on the Internet, Internet censorship circumvention tools are thriving, much to the CCP’s surprise.

With the help of the Great Firewall software, millions of Internet users in China have broken through the blockade. The Communist’s firewall has thus turned into a pile of waste at the hands of popular software such as Freegate and UltraSurf.

According to a Radio France Internationale Chinese report, overseas activists have realized the formation of a new pro-democracy party, the Netizen Party. Members of the Netizen Party outnumber the members of the CCP several times. They have become the main body of Chinese Internet speech. As long as the Internet continues in China, the CCP cannot eliminate the Netizen Party.

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