Open Internet must be controllable

Source:Global Times Published: 2016-3-1 0:25:10

After the Chinese cyberspace watchdog shut down the social media accounts of Ren Zhiqiang, an active and outspoken "opinion leader" on the Internet who was the former head of a large State-owned real estate company, Western media has criticized China for cracking down on free speech. Some new rules released by the authorities in early February which clarified the management of online publications made the headlines again with interpretations that "self-media" is about to collapse. Worries are permeating across the public discourse.

It is obvious that the Chinese government has been determined to straighten out online discourse. The dishonest ways highlighted by hyping and distorting information to reap profits will be discouraged. This trend should be wisely embraced instead of being countered.

China and the Western hemisphere can hardly find common ground while arguing about freedom of speech. It is not from the context of the argument that we can find the answer, or which side gets more support across the globe right now. Freedom of speech is actually an essential part of the competition between two different systems. Only practice - which side can achieve better development under different systems - can tell which is right.

Now, China doesn't have much reference to support its argument, either from inside or outside. No one can guarantee if China completely unleashes the Internet, whether the country can sustain its positive development.

Without an alternative, China has to explore its own way and steer its course by referring to what other countries are doing. There is not an absolute philosophy that can dominate the enormous and complicated Internet affairs. We should always stick to the truth.

China must be open and active toward the era of Internet. We need to embrace innovations and take on the risks caused by uncertainties. Meanwhile, the process of an all-around opening of the Internet should be in control, because it cannot contradict or jeopardize China's strategic security.

Gradual and controllable opening has become a guiding principle for China to govern its Internet affairs. China is heading to opening-up, but it won't do so without rules and reasons.

China has achieved a lot with the power of the Internet, boasting certain Internet giants that are rarely seen except in the US. The Internet has also become a forum of public opinion, where opinions are communicated across a wide spectrum. It is inevitable that controversies about freedom of speech have emerged, and a lot of "opinion leaders" have sprung up.

The Chinese Internet is still in a beta phase to test how the diversity of public discourse can shape society. The profile and pace of China's Internet development should be well understood by active and influential Internet users. They should dare to make breakthroughs, but also insist on some bottom lines.

Posted in: Editorial

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