China's 19th National Congress of the Communist Party – the quinquennial confab where the party selects new members of the Politburo, its ruling council – is expected to begin this fall (official dates have not yet been publicly announced). And in an effort to guarantee that the leadership reshuffle goes off without a hitch, President Xi Jinping is tightening the government’s grip on the internet to help protect the official narrative that Xi's "Chinese Dream" remains intact.
According to Reuters, China held a drill on Thursday with internet service providers to practice taking down websites deemed harmful.
“Internet data centers (IDC) and cloud companies – which host website servers – were ordered to participate in a three-hour drill to hone their "emergency response" skills, according to at least four participants that included the operator of Microsoft's cloud service in China.
China's Ministry of Public Security called for the drill "in order to step up online security for the 19th Party Congress and tackle the problem of smaller websites illegally disseminating harmful information", according to a document circulating online attributed to a cyber police unit in Guangzhou.”
The Communist Party “protects” China’s 1.4 billion citizens from the influence of subversive foreign using nationwide system of internet censorship known as the “Great Firewall.” But as the country’s financial regulators grow increasingly concerned about the country’s dangerously overleveraged economy, which is threatening to sink the country’s fragile stock market, it’s likely that the government sees local business media as a threat. Two years ago, following the spectacular runup and collapse of the Shanghai Composite, authorities arrested one of China’s most respected financial journalist and forced him to make an on air “apology” after the government blamed his reporting for triggering the crash.
Earlier this year, authorities began a crackdown on VPNs like the Tor network which can allow mainland residents to circumvent the “great firewall.”
“China has been tightening its grip on the internet, including a recent drive to crack down on the usage of VPNs to bypass internet censorship, enlisting the help of state-owned telecommunication service providers to upgrade the so-called Great Firewall.
Apple last week removed VPN apps from its app store, while Amazon's China partner warned users not to use VPNs.”
During the drill, the country’s internet data centers were asked to practice shutting down target web pages and report relevant details to the police, including the affected websites' contact details, IP address and server location, according to Reuters. With five of the seven Politburo members retiring, this year’s National Congress presents President Xi with his best opportunity yet to consolidate power. And as tensions escalate between China and several of its geopolitical rivals (notably the US, which is theatening a trade war, and India, which could instigate a real war), expect the crackdown to continue.