Defending the Great Firewall of China on the basis of national security, Beijing released a white paper issued by the Information Office of the State Council on the current and future role of the internet as envisioned by its policy makers. While encouraging other nations to recognize the revolution of the internet in society, the paper said the Internet had taken an “irreplaceable role in accelerating the development of the national economy” and would continue to impact daily work, education and lifestyles.
At a time when many nations including Pakistan, Iran and the UAE are censoring the internet based on content the state disapproves of, China’s response provides a clear reprieve to foreigners on China’s internet stance. The 31-page white paper includes a chapter on “guaranteeing citizen’s freedom of speech on the Internet, yet it leaves content that Beijing could ban ambiguous, saying Chinese laws prohibit the spread of “contents subverting state power, undermining national unity, infringing upon national honor and interests, inciting ethnic hatred and secession” as well as such things as pornography and terror.
Meanwhile the country’s state secrets law was recently amended to make internet and telecommunications firms now responsible for helping the government police the web. Despite that, China still maintains that its people have unfettered access to the internet. “Chinese citizens fully enjoy freedom of speech on the internet,” says the white paper – true to some extent – China has over a million bulletin boards and 220 million bloggers – over 80 per cent of websites offer some kind of bulletin board or reader comment system. Every day some three million messages are posted on such boards or blogs. The Chinese government believes this online debate is far in advance of any other country.
By the end of 2009, the number of people using the internet in China rose to 384 million or 28.9% of the population, higher than the world average and 618 times that of 1997 with an annual increase of 31.95 million users. Its accessibility will be raised to 45 percent of the population in the next five years the report added. There were 3.23 million websites, 2,152 times that of 1997, running in China last year. Of the total users, 346 million people used broadband and 233 million used mobile phones to access the internet.
In the past 16 years, the IT industry grew at over 26.6 percent annually, with its proportion in the national economy increasing from less than one percent to 10 percent, the paper said. Also, 46 million Chinese people received education with the help of the internet, 35 million conducted securities trading on the internet, 15 million sought jobs through the internet and 14 million arranged trips via the internet.