The Three Communist Party Rising Stars That Explain Chinese Cyberspace Policy

Posted on 20th November 2017

The recent Communist Party Congress in China showed how President Xi Jinping is strengthening his grip on cyberspace policies. So, after President Trump’s generous reception in China during his Asia tour, who are the rising political stars that US tech CEOs should watch?

New Censorship Czar Wang Huning

Wang Huning has succeeded the 5th ranking Politburo Standing Committee member, Liu Yunshan, to take charge of ideology, propaganda, censorship, overseeing content regulations and Internet governance policies.

Wang was previously the party’s principal theorist, playing a significant role in drafting the guiding political theories of former party chiefs, such as Jiang Zemin’s ‘Theory of the Three Represents’ and Hu Jintao’s ‘Scientific Theory of Development’, both of which were incorporated into the party’s charter. Given Wang’s close relationships with Xi’s predecessors, many of China’s elite politics watchers were surprised to find that Xi had taken Wang under his wings by bringing him on international visits and adopting the ‘China Dream’ term reportedly coined by Wang. Wang’s international debut as China’s censorship Czar may be the upcoming World Internet Conference in Wuzhen on 3 December 2017.

Pro-Xi Official to Head Ministry of Public Security

The Ministry of Public Security (MPS) is China’s internal security authority and established China’s first cybersecurity framework policy, the Multi-Level Protection Scheme (MLPS), in 2007. The appointment of one of Xi’s allies, Zhao Kezhi, as party chief of the ministry will give Xi greater oversight of the ministry: Zhao has previously worked with two of Xi’s close aides, Li Zhanshu and Chen Min’er, and is expected to assume the ministerial role in the next few months.

Meanwhile, the current Minister of Public Security, Guo Shengkun, was promoted to the Politburo, assuming the inward-facing role of Party Political and Legislative Affairs Committee Chief. Though the new position is technically a higher bureaucratic rank than the Public Security Minister, it comes with a lower visibility portfolio – successfully marginalizing Guo, who belongs to the clique of former President Jiang Zemin.

Head of the Cyberspace Administration Politically Elevated

When Xi consolidated power in his first term, he established the Central Leading Group for Cyber Affairs, hosted by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) in 2014. Over the past few years, the CAC has penned China’s Cybersecurity Law, built its own enforcement arm, and shared some cybersecurity policy jurisdiction with the MPS. For instance, the Cybersecurity Law created a set of critical information infrastructure protection regulations that overlap with the ministry’s MLPS, reflecting competing interests between the two government agencies.

By elevating the head of the CAC, Xu Lin, to a seat on the Party Central Committee in the recent reshuffle, Xi has also elevated the influence of the CAC, while leaving it under the control of an ally – Xu Lin’s ties with Xi Jinping date back to when they were both stationed in Shanghai in 2007. With the appointments of allied officials in both the CAC and MPS, Xi has further consolidated his control over cyber policy and is well-positioned to realign the roles of both agencies in China’s Cybersecurity Law implementation.

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