Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

China Replaces Its Internet Czar. Will Its Policies Change, Too?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

China Replaces Its Internet Czar. Will Its Policies Change, Too?

Article excerpt

China will replace its top Internet regulator and censor Lu Wei, who had become the face of the government during its negotiations with foreign technology companies.

Mr. Lu will be replaced at the post by his deputy, Xu Lin, reported state news agency Xinhua on Wednesday.

As the official responsible for implementing the government's Internet policies, Lu was known for his outspoken defense of what China calls its principle of "internet sovereignty," by which every nation can decide how their citizens' access to online information can be controlled. In accordance with that principle, cyberspace is no different from physical territory in terms of the rights of nation-states. And the United States' promotion of open access to the internet, in this view, amounts to a veiled exercise in imperialism.

The departure of Lu, one of the Communist Party's rising stars and an ambitious ally of President Xi Jinping, had been rumored for months and is not expected to alter the broad direction of China's internet policy, reports the Associated Press. Xinhua did not mention a new post for Lu, who will keep his concurrent position as deputy head of the party's propaganda department. He could be in line to lead the department or take over a provincial post, according to political analysts and speculation in Chinese media.

"Lu's most important achievement was that he took a government that was scared of the internet and changed it into a government that was very much in control of the internet," Rogier Creemers, a China scholar at the University of Oxford, told the AP. "From the Chinese policy perspective, it was very innovative, very effective. He's won, and the political cauldron that was Weibo is gone."

In the January cover story for The Christian Science Monitor, "Why China hacks the world," Adam Segel wrote that Lu had started out at Xinhua's provincial branches and ascended quickly through the ranks, becoming head of the State Internet Information Office in April 2013. Lu, reports Segel, was a gregarious "ideological warrior and propagandist ... known as both a workaholic and a showman":

Lu's work and thinking are essential to understanding China's approach to the Web. …

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