China aims to tame Internet and spread party line

BEIJING Mon Apr 23, 2007 10:37am EDT

Chinese President Hu Jintao speaks during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin in Moscow, March 26, 2007. Hu Jintao on Monday launched a campaign to rid the country's sprawling Internet of ''unhealthy'' content and make it a springboard for Communist Party doctrine, state television reported. REUTERS/Pool

Chinese President Hu Jintao speaks during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin in Moscow, March 26, 2007. Hu Jintao on Monday launched a campaign to rid the country's sprawling Internet of ''unhealthy'' content and make it a springboard for Communist Party doctrine, state television reported.

Credit: Reuters/Pool

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BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese President Hu Jintao on Monday launched a campaign to rid the country's sprawling Internet of "unhealthy" content and make it a springboard for Communist Party doctrine, state television reported.

With Hu presiding, the Communist Party Politburo -- its 24-member inner council -- discussed cleaning up the Internet, state television reported. The meeting promised to place the often unruly medium more firmly under propaganda controls.

"Development and administration of Internet culture must stick to the direction of socialist advanced culture, adhere to correct propaganda guidance," said a summary of the meeting read on the news broadcast.

"Internet cultural units must conscientiously take on the responsibility of encouraging development of a system of core socialist values."

The meeting was far from the first time China has sought to rein in the Internet. In January, Hu made a similar call to "purify" it, and there have been many such calls before.

But the announcement indicated that Hu wants ever tighter controls as he braces for a series of political hurdles and seeks to govern a generation of young Chinese for whom Mao Zedong's socialist revolution is a hazy history lesson.

"Consolidate the guiding status of Marxism in the ideological sphere," the party meeting urged, calling for more Marxist education on the Internet.

The Communist Party is preparing for a congress later this year that is set to give Hu another five-year term and open the way for him to choose eventual successors. In 2008, Beijing hosts the Olympic Games, when the party's economic achievements will be on display, along with its political and media controls.

In 2006, China's Internet users grew by 26 million, or 23.4 percent, year on year, to reach 137 million, Chinese authorities have estimated.

That lucrative market has attracted big investors such as Google and Yahoo. They have been criticized by some rights groups for bowing to China's censors.

The one-party government already wields a vast system of filters and censorship that blocks the majority of users from sites offering uncensored opinion and news. But even in China, news of official misdeeds and dissident opinion has been able to travel fast through online bulletin boards and blogs.

Authorities have also launched repeated crackdowns on pornography and salacious content. The latest campaign against porn and "rumor-spreading" was announced earlier this month.

The meeting also announced that schools and sports groups would be encouraged to use healthy competition as a way to shape youth, the report said.

"Sports plays an irreplaceable role in the formation of young people's thinking and character, mental development and aesthetic formation," the meeting declared.

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