Digital Sovereignty

Even skeptics (such as this blog) can note the importance of the discussion initiated here:

Soviet Union had cinema, the PRC has the Internet.

I personally think that the international audience still largely underestimate the importance of what China has achieved policy-wise for the global landscape of Internet. Concepts like “digital sovereignty” that were proposed by China are now emerging from post-Snowden discussions in proposals at the highest levels in EU countries. Russia has already embraced it. Of course, the US industry still need the myth of a “global village” to push products worldwide. Still, I am curious to see how it evolves as the ad market will continue to shrink, and as foreign relationships with the US are likely to get less friendly in the next years. While EU and other countries (esp in Africa and South America) start realizing that the US-first model of the Internet is too much a disadvantage for them, the only other real-world case they can turn to is China. In many regards, China looks like the future of the Internet. …

It’s tempting for Westerners (and especially Anglos) to see Chinese government Internet policy as simply backward. That’s almost certainly an inadequate framework for making sense of the most explosive Web-growth in the world.

Among other developments, there’s this:


Religious Guidance

Francesco Sisci examines the subtleties of Chinese policy on religion in an article at Asia Times Online:

The CCP has made similar pronouncements on this subject in the past. In the latest case, Xi notes the party will have to “guide” religions. However, Xi has tellingly chosen to use a Chinese verb for “guide” for the first time that is fraught with new and subtle meanings. […] Using this verb means the CCP is de facto introducing an entirely new model that will govern its relationship with religious groups. The model tries to blend two elements — conservative and innovative. The party keeps the old role of guidance and management of religious organizations. But it is told to do so by recognizing each religion’s specific characteristics. […] The party will thus manage religious organizations by keeping “politics and religions separate.” This point has been conveyed by using the special verb in its rhetoric. The cryptic word play resembles a similar practice in Catholic scholastic tradition. It is easy for foreign media and other commentators outside China to miss this point — as has often happened in the past several days. …

Religion is — almost by definition — a topic that is highly-charged. Traumatic wars of religion, East and West, still shape the ways it is discussed, while structuring patterns of reciprocal blindness on each side. Sisci understands this with a clarity that is rarely matched, which lends his commentary its exceptional value.