China’s military newspaper, the People’s Liberation Army Daily, warned on Wednesday that China must “resolutely protect ideological and political security on the invisible battleground of cyberspace.” The call to arms against “Western hostile forces” on the Internet comes amidst a broader push for tighter Internet controls, including experiments with offensive cyber capabilities against websites that have been banned in China.
The piece begins by repeating a claim China has made often: that Internet or cyber sovereignty is a manifestation of national sovereignty. Over the past year, China has called attention to this concept in media articles and official speeches, seeking to win international recognition of its conceptualization of how the internet should be governed. The PLA Daily piece makes it clear that China’s “cyber territory” must be defended as vigorously as physical territory. The article warned that if China doesn’t occupy and defend its “cyber territory,” then nameless “hostile forces” will use it as a “bridgehead” to attack China.
The martial metaphor is apt, because PLA Daily goes on to call the Internet “the primary battlefield for ideological struggle.” Whoever controls the Internet has the “high ground” in the ideological battle and controls the “lifeline” of national security and development in the information age. PLA Daily sees a battle going on for hearts and minds, and equates “defense of hearts” with “national defense.” Thus, Internet control – not simply defense against cyberattacks but control over the ideological content available on the Internet – is a national security matter for China’s military.
According to the PLA Daily, “Western anti-China forces have already tried in vain to exploit the Internet to topple China.” These Western forces, allied with a small number of “ideological traitors” from China, use the Internet to:
maliciously attack our Party, smear the founding leaders of new China, slander our heroic figures, [and] raise up the mistaken viewpoint of historical nihilism. Their fundamental purpose is use “universal values” to confuse us, “constitutional democracy” to harass us, “color revolutions” to overthrow us, negative public opinion to overturn us, [and] “making the military non-Party and non-political” and “nationalizing the military” to destabilize us.
Full article: Chinese Military Declares the Internet an Ideological ‘Battleground’ (The Diplomat)