"America Uses Internet to Spread Regime Change"

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 1/26/2010 03:36:00 PM
Here's yet another interpretation of Google in China if you're unsatisfied with the Emmanuel-esque take on them [1, 2, 3]. This one's broadly in line with the "information imperialism" school of thought that the official publication The Global Times put forth. At least that's a paraphrase of what the World Socialist Website (WSWS) says about Hillary Clinton's recent speech:
This was, however, only a cover for the assertion of a global mandate for Washington to destabilize or overthrow governments worldwide. Clinton praised the Twitter and Internet organizing behind US-backed "color revolutions," including most recently the June 2009 Green Revolution that unsuccessfully tried to overturn the reelection of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. She noted, "In Iran and Moldova and other countries, online organizing has been a critical tool for advancing democracy and enabling citizens to protest suspicious election results."

Other US-backed "color revolutions" include the 2003 Rose Revolution that installed President Mikheil Saakashvili in Georgia, the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine that placed President Viktor Yushchenko in power, and the failed 2005 Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan and 2006 Denim Revolution in Belarus.

Clinton reserved the right to engineer such “revolutions” anywhere in the world: "The United States is committed to devoting the diplomatic, economic and technological resources necessary to advance [Internet] freedoms. We are a nation made up of immigrants from every country and every interest that spans the globe… We will work with partners in industry, academia and nongovernmental organizations to establish a standing effort that will harness the power of connection technologies and apply them to our diplomatic goals."
Like most agitprop, I take these sort of pronouncements with a grain of salt. To be fair, I must disclose that this blog is hosted by Blogger which is owned by Google. I am not shy in disclosing that I have found it to be a wonderful service that offers pretty much everything blogs you need to pay for offer in terms of features. Plus, I can't complain about Google's search results which drive a good amount of traffic in my direction.

With that out of the way, let's return to WSWS. In the next set of statements, we actually get something which I honestly missed before. What commentators (including me) have largely overlooked in the Internet debate is that China is a large country with many (non-Han Chinese) minorities of varying propensities towards seeking independence. Hence the PRC leadership's many pleas for a "harmonious society." On a related note are the growing incidences of civil unrest there:
Though it carefully censors news of popular protest, the Chinese state press is well aware of massive discontent in China, and fears that it could come under the control of political forces hostile to the CCP. The number of “mass incidents” —that is, protests, strikes or riots, typically repressed by mass police or paramilitary actions—reached 120,000 in 2008, up from 90,000 in 2006 and 74,000 in 2004.

According to some estimates, the figure for 2009 could be 230,000. A Chinese Academy of Social Sciences study in December found that of the 77 major “mass incidents” in 2009, 30 percent were spread by the Internet and mobile phones.

In this context, Clinton's speech amounts to a threat that the State Department might try to seize upon and direct protests to undermine the Chinese government—as it already has done in Eastern Europe, the ex-USSR and the Middle East.
I honestly doubt whether Hillary Clinton--or any of her colleagues or predecessors--deliberately harnesses the Internet to spread regime change. As far as conspiracy theories go, this one is pretty far-fetched. However, something that may have some value is the assertion that protest movements use information and communication technologies to get the word out. Again, I am not quite sure that anyone who uses ICT are against the workers of the world uniting instead of being the workers of the world uniting. Moreover, the author does not convincingly connect the various colour revolutions which occurred in Eastern Europe with American propagation of ICT.

Late last year, the PRC's minister of public security, Meng Jianzhu, made claims that these "mass incidents" should be quelled by even heavier policing of the Internet:
Meng demanded faster and more sophisticated extinguishing of riots and protests, and stricter control over the country's already heavily censored Internet. "As soon as a mass incident breaks out, we must ensure that it is quickly located, reported and brought under control," Meng wrote. "Mass incidents" is a term Chinese officials use to refer to protests, riots and mass petitions.

Police forces needed to become more skilled at coordinating and sharing information, overcoming entrenched bureaucratic boundaries, Meng wrote. He demanded more specialist forces and equipment to break up mass unrest...some small-town protests in the past couple of years have snowballed into violent confrontations involving thousands of residents, many of hearing of the unrest through mobile phone messages or over the Internet.

Deadly riots in the ethnically-divided western region of Xinjiang in July also underscored the potency of modern communications in spreading seeds of discontent. Authorities needed to intensify oversight of the Internet, guarding against signs of unrest and ideas and information damaging to Party control, wrote Meng. "The Internet has become an important means for anti-China forces to engage in infiltration and sabotage," Meng wrote. "Give greater prominence to correct guidance of Internet opinion," he added.
I wonder what John Kerry would make of this. To me the Chinese are just trying to shoot the medium and not even the messenger.