Let a Healthy Internet Guide and Reflect Public Opinion*
April 19, 2016
As a broad social platform through which millions upon millions of users obtain and exchange information, the internet has a profound influence on the way people acquire knowledge, on the way they think, and also on their values and views. In particular, it influences the way that people view the country, society, their jobs and also their lives.
Attaining the Two Centenary Goals requires that our entire society works with concerted efforts. It requires that all the people focus their thoughts and their efforts towards the same goal. A society that lacks common ideals, goals, and values and that finds itself in disorder all the time will never achieve success. For China, which has a population of more than 1.3 billion, disorder will benefit neither the people nor the country.
Forming a consensus is no easy task, and so we all need to work harder. To attain our goals, we will need to form concentric circles both online and offline. What do I mean by concentric circles? I mean rallying all the people of China under the leadership of the CPC, and motivating people of all walks of life to engage in a concerted effort to bring about the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
The ancients used to say, "The person that knows a leaking roof is the one who is under that roof; the person that knows an error of the court is the one who is not in power."1 If netizens are the "grassroots", as many of them refer to themselves, then the internet is today's "grassroots" platform. Netizens are members of the general public. If members of the public go online, so does public opinion. Our officials need to go wherever the public goes, otherwise how else are they expected to maintain ties with them? Party and government organs and their leaders must learn to stay in touch with the people through the internet. They should go online regularly, observing, chatting, and posting their comments. They need to know what the people think and want, gather good ideas and suggestions, and actively respond to their concerns, answer their queries and remove their doubts. Using the internet to understand public opinion and do their jobs is a basic skill that officials now need to learn. Officials of all ranks, particularly those in leading positions, must work constantly to improve their performance in this regard.
The majority of netizens are ordinary people who come from different walks of life and have different life experiences. Their views and opinions are sure to vary greatly, and we cannot expect them to always be right about everything and correct in what they say. More tolerance and patience are therefore required. We need to promptly take constructive suggestions, afford assistance to those who need help, tell the truth to those in the dark, offer clarification to those who are confused about certain issues, help pacify those who bear a grudge against something, and guide those with erroneous views and correct their misunderstandings. This way we will ensure that the internet becomes a new platform through which we communicate and interact with the public, a new means through which we understand the people, stay in touch with them, and address their worries and difficulties, and a new channel through which we promote people's democracy and accept public scrutiny.
Cyberspace is a common virtual home for millions of people. A clean and sound online environment is in the best interests of all users. Nobody wants to live in a space occupied by fraud, scams, attacks, slander, terror, obscenity and violence. The internet cannot be a lawless place. The use of the internet to advocate the toppling of the government, preach religious extremism, or incite separatism and terrorism must be resolutely prevented and punished. Under absolutely no circumstances can such activities be allowed to go unchecked. The use of the internet to engage in fraud, circulate obscene materials, commit slander, and sell contraband goods cannot be left unchecked either. No country in the world would allow such activities to spiral out of control.
Inspired by a sense of duty to society and the people, we must step up our law-based governance of cyberspace, develop better online content, strengthen positive publicity, and work to foster a positive, healthy, upright online culture. We need to use our core socialist values and profit from the best achievements of human civilization to nurture people's minds and nourish society, ensuring that positive energy and mainstream values prevail. By doing so, we will be able to create a clean and upright cyberspace for internet users, especially young ones.
A sound atmosphere for the expression of opinion online does not imply that there should be only one voice and one tune. Rather, it means that people are not permitted to conflate right and wrong, circulate rumors, cause trouble, violate the law, or commit crime; it means that people cannot overstep the boundaries of the Constitution and other laws. I have repeatedly emphasized that power needs to be confined in the cage of regulations. An important means of doing this will be to exert the role of public scrutiny, including scrutiny on the internet. Party and government organs and their leaders must take particular note of this point, and make it their priority. We must not only welcome well-meant criticism and public oversight online, we must study it and take it into account, regardless of whether it is directed at the work of the Party and government or at individual officials, and regardless of whether it is mild-mannered or unpleasant to hear.
* Part of the speech at the Seminar on Cyber Security and IT Application.
1 Wang Chong: Discourses Weighed in the Balance (Lun Heng). Wang Chong (27-c. 97) was a historian of the Eastern Han Dynasty.
(Not to be republished for any commercial or other purposes.)