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Viewing cable 10BEIJING183, SECRETARY'S INTERNET FREEDOM SPEECH: CHINA REACTION

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
10BEIJING183 2010-01-25 07:07 2010-12-04 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Beijing
VZCZCXRO6497
OO RUEHBC RUEHCN RUEHGH RUEHKUK RUEHTRO
DE RUEHBJ #0183/01 0250728
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 250728Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY BEIJING
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7730
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 BEIJING 000183 

SIPDIS 

DEPT FOR S, P, D, EAP/CM, EEB, AND H 
NSC FOR BADER, MEDEIROS, AND LOI 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/23/2030 
TAGS: PREL PGOV ECON PHUM EINV CH
SUBJECT: SECRETARY'S INTERNET FREEDOM SPEECH: CHINA REACTION 

Classified By: DCM Robert Goldberg fo Reasons: 1.4(B), (D). 

Summary 
------- 
1. (C) Secretary Clinton's January 21 speech on Internet 
Freedom touched a nerve in China. Official reaction was 
negative, with harsh criticism coming from the Ministry of 
Foreign Affairs in an official statement and from other parts 
of the Chinese system through critical articles and 
editorials in the official press. Chinese Internet censors 
were deployed in force to block online commentary and 
coverage of the Secretary's speech, and as of January 24, 
sites in the United States that carried transcripts of the 
speech were inaccessible without VPN or other 
firewall-evading software. The few Chinese netizens and 
bloggers who did manage to access the speech and then dared 
write about it were generally supportive of the Secretary's 
message. Other Embassy contacts, including academic 
USA-watchers and journalists, lamented that the Secretary's 
speech would strengthen and embolden those in the Chinese 
system who advocated greater control over the Internet in 
China. They expressed concern that Internet freedom would be 
made into an "us vs. them" issue rather than a "right vs. 
wrong" issue. Contacts warned that Chinese officials see 
U.S. efforts to promote Internet freedom as an attack, 
repeatedly invoking the specter of "color revolution." Some 
contacts in the tech industry praised the speech as being 
"spot on" in its coverage of U.S. firms' difficulty with the 
Chinese business environment. Contacts outside Beijing were 
cautious with their comments. Embassy and consulate officers 
will continue to follow the reaction to the Secretary's 
remarks in the weeks ahead to assess their continuing impact 
on government, think tank, media, blogger and business 
actions with regard to the Internet. End Summary. 

Official Reaction Negative 
-------------------------- 
2. (C) In a January 22 statement in reaction to the 
Secretary's Internet freedom speech, Chinese Ministry of 
Foreign Affairs spokesperson Ma Zhaoxu, said "we firmly 
oppose such words and deeds, which are against the facts and 
harmful to U.S.-China relations." Ma's remarks followed a 
January 21 press conference by Vice Foreign Minister He 
Yafei's in which he did not refer to the Secretary's speech, 
but urged the United States to refrain from 
"over-interpreting" the Google case, saying it should not be 
allowed to impact bilateral relations. Ma's statement was 
much more negative than initial unofficial comment from 
working-level MFA officers the morning of January 22. Asked 
about the speech, MFA North American and Oceanian Affairs 
Department U.S.A. Division Director An Gang told poloff that 
the MFA noticed that specific Chinese cases or individuals 
were not mentioned in the speech, and that "we are very happy 
about that." (Comment: the contrast between the "softer" 
comments from the USA desk and the harder language from the 
Spokesman several hours later suggests that the negative 
reaction to the speech originated at higher levels in the 
foreign policy hierarchy.) 

Media Reaction Dutifully Echoes MFA Criticism 
--------------------------------------------- 
3. (SBU) Chinese media coverage of the Secretary's speech 
widely quoted the MFA statement. January 22 coverage 
included assertions that the Secretary's call for 
unrestricted access to the Internet could be regarded "as a 
disguised attempt to impose U.S. values in the name of 
democracy." Articles in the nationalist daily Global Times 
stated that the bulk of Internet comment originated in the 
West, "loaded with aggressive rhetoric against other 
countries," against which other countries cannot hope to 
defend. Beijing University Professor of Communications Hu 
Yong, quoted in the 21st Century Business Herald, said the 
Secretary's discussion of sharing technology to allow users 
to circumvent Internet censorship meant that the "Google 
incident is only the beginning of a rolling snowball." 

4. (SBU) Most regional reporting in China emphasized that 
Internet freedom has now become embedded as a new diplomatic 
tool the U.S. foreign policy. Shanghai's influential Wenhui 
Daily ran a January 23 commentary calling Secretary Clinton's 
remarks "arrogant, illogical, and full of political shows and 
calculations," accusing her of having a "Cold War mentality." 
Some Chinese outlets rebutted U.S. charges by praising 
Chinese Internet practices. January 22 televised news 
programming reported on the benefits for Chinese users of 
Chinese governmental supervision of the Internet. Shanghai 
TV January 22 broadcast programming which painted Chinese 
online police in a positive light. 

BEIJING 00000183 002 OF 005 



Blogger Community: Those that Saw it, Liked it 
--------------------------------------------- - 
5. (SBU) Chinese netizens accessed the Secretary's speech and 
shared reactions through rough real-time translations on 
Twitter, blogs, and Google. The range of opinions among the 
self-selecting demographic of Chinese netizens, who had 
circumvented Chinese government blocks to blog and 
participate in Twitter-based discussions, ranged from 
supportive to skeptical, with the majority expressing 
agreement with the principles outlined in the Secretary's 
speech. In general, Chinese netizen comments focused on 
speculation about linkages between the Secretary's speech and 
Google's announcement that it was considering withdrawing 
from China. 

6. (SBU) Many netizen reactions echoed the statements by 
XXXXXXXXXXXX who tweeted that Secretary Clinton's speech  "clarified the relation between Internet freedom and business  prosperity, which gave better guidance for American companies  operating in China." A Chinese blogger named XXXXXXXXXXXX
wrote that the speech was "certain to have a positive effect  and was welcomed by Chinese Internet users regarding the  censorship problem in China." Others ommented that the  speech was an indication that the United States was leading  the U.S.-China relationship in the right direction. 

7. (SBU) Some Chinese bloggers viewed the Secretary's speech 
as "confrontational," but nonetheless inspiring to the 
Chinese people. 
- XXXXXXXXXXXX, depicted Secretary  Clinton as Joan of Arc,
with a widely distributed graphic of  "Hillary leads the people." 
Another Chinese Twitter user  wrote, "What a historic speech
 it is the launching of an  Internet war, the confrontation between
democracy and  authoritarianism becoming public, and the
beginning of a new  Cold War." 

- XXXXXXXXXXXX, a blogger based in XXXXXXXXXXXX,
similarly  characterized the speech as "a declaration of war fro
 a free  nation to an autocracy. It might be as important as 
Churchill's Iron Curtain Speech... I will wait with hope. The 
direct mention of China also calls for a frank and honest 
discussion between Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao." 
-XXXXXXXXXXXX, attending a Mission  sponsored event
in Beijing (see para 21), said the  Secretary's speech "showed 
the power of the Internet to the  world" and raised the U.S.
 Internet strategy to a new level. 
8. (SBU) Some bloggers expressed skepticism. 
- XXXXXXXXXXXX tweeted, "the U.S.  government
has been talking about supporting world-wide Internet
freedom for ages, but it hasn't done much yet." 
- XXXXXXXXXXXX, doubted the sincerity of the United 
States' commitment to the freedoms mentioned in Secretary 
Clinton's speech due to competing commercial and national 
security interests. 
Chinese bloggers, regardless of their outlook, have widely 
reported that Chinese web monitors have been aggressively 
deleting posts and content related to the Secretary's speech. 


China Watchers: Speech Will Provoke the Authorities 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
9. (C) Other contacts analyzed the Secretary's speech the way 
bloggers did, but were pessimistic about the effect of the 
speech on Chinese authorities. On January 22 XXXXXXXXXXXX
 told  poloff that following the controversy generated by
Google's  announcement, the issue of Internet freedom had been 
discussed several times within the Politburo Standing 
Committee which had agreed that the issue of Internet freedom 
had supplanted traditional human rights issues as a new 
"battleground" between the United States and China. Although 
he was not aware of any specific Standing Committee 
decisions, XXXXXXXXXXXX said that President Hu Jintao
had provided  general guidance that the issue should not be
allowed to  cause major disruptions to U.S.-China relations. 
10. (C) On January 21, speaking before the Secretary's 
speech, XXXXXXXXXXXX, told poloff that the 
Communist Party viewed Internet freedom initiatives as a 
direct challenge to its ability to maintain social and 
political stability and, therefore, its legitimacy. He said 
that, in this context, the Party would resist international 
pressure on the Google issue and would increase restrictions 
on the Internet in the period leading up to the 18th Party 
Congress in 2012. He predicted that the Secretary's speech 

BEIJING 00000183 003 OF 005 


would be viewed as directed at the Communist Party and would 
therefore generate uncertainty about U.S. intentions towards 
China. 
11. (C) On January 23, a prominent XXXXXXXXXXXX
University media  and public opinion researcher pointed out
that most Chinese  media reactions to the Secretary's speech
had simply  republished the MFA statement and were not
printing any  quotations from the speech itself. Given the
political  sensitivity of the speech and the Google case, this
was the  only safe thing to do, he said. Any perceived support
for  the Secretary's speech in the press would "cross a red line" 
with censors. XXXXXXXXXXXX said the Chinese public had 
mixed feelings about the speech and the Google issue. While 
many in China were dissatisfied with Internet censorship, 
they also resented public criticism from U.S. officials, he 
said, predicting that the speech would increase nationalist 
sentiment in China. Another contact, XXXXXXXXXXXX
 agreed that while it might  cause a nationalist response,
the Secretary's message "needed  to be said." He predicted that
the Chinese government would  attempt to appeal to nationalism
to counter the Secretary's  speech. However, he noted that most
current media commentary  critical of the speech, and Google,
was not being written by  well known journalists, intellectuals
or scholars whose  silence could be read as a show of support
for the speech -  and for Google. 
12. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX, told poloff January 23 that he 
had been "disappointed and depressed" when he read the 
Secretary's speech. "Those who tried to control the Internet 
more in China never had much support before," he said. "Most 
people believe information should be open, and the Internet 
should be open. The conservative, security people were the 
minority and many people just laughed at them." The 
Secretary's speech, however, gave great new energy to the 
"controllers" who could now plausibly argue that the United 
States was explicitly using the Internet as a tool for regime 
change. "The Internet belongs to every country," he 
complained; "we all can go there, we all can add to it, we 
all can learn from it. We Chinese were free there. Now the 
United States has claimed it for itself and so it will become 
an ideological battlefield." He asserted that, in the past, 
the Chinese authorities had paid relatively little attention 
to controlling the Internet, focusing only on the issues that 
were the most urgent and letting most netizens alone. "That 
is finished now. The Secretary's 'information curtain' 
remark will give the authorities what they need to 
'harmonize' the Internet for all Chinese citizens." 
(Comment: 'harmonize' is an acidly sarcastic term in Chinese 
to describe official deletion or blockage of Internet 
content. XXXXXXXXXXXX is nearly always laid back and
even-tempered.  His commentary on this issue was more
emotional and bitter  than poloff has seen from him in dozens
of encounters over  three years, even on extremely sensitive
issues such as XXXXXXXXXXXX.
13. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX  warned that Google's announcement
had become a new irritant  to the bilateral relationship with the
potential to be even  more dangerous than the Taiwan and Tibet issue.
XXXXXXXXXXXX said  that many Chinese citizens believed that
Google's decision  was part of a coordinated public/private effort by
the USG to  impose U.S. values on China, what he referred to as an 
"E-color revolution." As confirmation of this theory,
XXXXXXXXXXXX  cited Secretary Clinton's January 7 "21st
Century Statecraft"  dinner with several tech sector CEOs
(including Google),  Google's donations to President Obama's
presidential  campaign, and Secretary Clinton's January 21 speech
on  Internet freedom. 

14. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX warned that there were  people
in China and other countries such as Iran who might  see
the "shadow of color revolution" in recent USG policies 
promoting Internet freedom and 21st century e-diplomacy. For 
example, Iranians might perceive Washington's new initiatives 
on Internet freedom or the advocacy of new technologies such 
as Twitter to be "aggressive" or harboring ulterior motives, 
such as promoting regime change, said XXXXXXXXXXXX
Informed Chinese netizens already know how to circumvent the
Great Firewall to  access Facebook and Twitter, Guo said, including
by using  commercially available software. He feared, however, tha
 if  the USG provided free software that helped Chinese netizens 
overcome filters, this might politicize the issue of Internet 
freedom and force the PRC government to react. One possible 

BEIJING 00000183 004 OF 005 

consequence, warned XXXXXXXXXXXX, was that China might
make it illegal  to download either U.S.-provided or commercially
available software that helped Internet surfers circumvent the Great 
Firewall. 

15. (C) Professor XXXXXXXXXXXX said January 22 that
restricting the  Internet access of Chinese netizens would
theoretically  hamper development of cutting edge industries,
but was  skeptical this had happened in reality. Professor
XXXXXXXXXXXX, said in the same  meeting that the problem
was that China's leaders did not yet  feel comfortable with thes
 new communications technologies  and thus preferred to proceed
cautiously. The Google issue  and Secretary Clinton's speech
were likely to prompt them to  shift from a low-profile to a
higher-profile response on  Internet freedom. 

IT Industry: Speech Accurately Portrayed Business Environment 
--------------------------------------------- ---------------- 

16. (C) The president of XXXXXXXXXXXX, called the Secretary's
speech "spot  on, "directly capturing industry concerns about a
business climate that is getting worse on a "day-to-day basis." He 
applauded the Secretary's speech as a means of bringing the 
Chinese to the table to address key concerns about the 
business environment and said the decision taken by Google 
was of enormous magnitude, indicating the depth of concern 
over issues it is facing here. As a result, he believes, the 
Chinese government's failure to respond to its people's 
opposition to censorship would embolden the netizen community 
in its efforts to evade government controls. 

17. (C) Another high-tech industry consultant expressed 
concern that the Secretary's speech would dampen the 
U.S.-China business climate and drive it "to a new low." The 
consultant observed that "China has noticed that the NSA and 
the Pentagon have dominated cyberspace policy for over a 
year." Key officials, academics, and military leaders, 
according to this consultant, hold paranoid fears that the 
U.S. would one day launch a "zero-day" attack on all of 
China's critical infrastructure. The Secretary's speech and 
Google's recent actions, would amplify this belief. 

18. (C) Reaction in northern China, where Intel has a 
multi-billion dollar manufacturing factory investment under 
construction, however, has thus far been limited
XXXXXXXXXXXX told XXXXXXXXXXXX that 
the Secretary's speech had thus far not created a stir. 
XXXXXXXXXXXX had in the past several days met with
several Dalian Vice Mayors, and reported Google and Internet
freedom  issues had not been raised. 

19. (C) South China-based Internet portal contacts were 
reluctant to talk with ConGenoffs about ongoing media 
coverage of Google or broader internet freedom issues. A 
public relations manager from XXXXXXXXXXXX initially
refused to  comment, saying it was not appropriate for her
to offer an  opinion on policy matters, but then guardedly
reverted to  official-sounding comments about why Internet
regulation is  important for the well-being of Chinese users
and the  maintenance of a positive online environment. 

20. (C) A working-level official from the XXXXXXXXXXXX
 went further in sharing  pro-government comments with
ConGenoff, saying that Google is  a business and should restrict itself
To business matters,  rather than venturing into political territory. The
official  said 2009 was a very strong year for internet companies in 
China and that internet restrictions had not dampened  individual
user's online experiences or companies' earnings. 

Mission Outreach on the Secretary's Speech 
------------------------------------------ 
21. (C) January 22, Embassy Beijing and Consulates General 
Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenyang hosted a simultaneous 
digital video conference viewing of the Secretary's speech 
for dozens of local bloggers, with an additional 300 netizens 
attending via the Internet. Mission estimates indicate 
Twitter communications and blog entries will reach a combined 
audience of millions of persons. Following the speech, 
participating bloggers, who were generally supportive of the 
Secretary's message, engaged in a lively discussion focused 
on what specific measures the United States government could 
take to promote Internet freedom in China and whether the 
speech constituted a new direction for U.S. foreign policy on 

BEIJING 00000183 005 OF 005 


China. 
HUNTSMAN