“If the return of the Cultural Revolution in China is unlikely, the march towards digital dictatorship has never been so topical”

Chronic. It floats in China like a scent of Cultural Revolution. “It’s not enough to clean the rot, you have to scrape to the bone”, launched on August 29 a nationalist blogger, Li Guangman, calling for an end to the “Capitalist cliques” who enrich themselves to the detriment of the people, while lambasting the Chinese star-system which perverts a youth dangerously influenced by Western culture.

The message smacks of the rhetoric of the Maoist purges. But the main thing is not so much its content as the extent of its dissemination. Relayed by media close to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), this blog post, fifteen days after its publication, was still visible to Internet users. Obviously, such a digital dazibao could not have been propagated without the consent of Xi Jinping himself.

Assure the CCP its supremacy

The context in which this violent call to order takes place is just as important for understanding what is at work. First, for several months, the flagships of Chinese high-tech have been accused of all evils by the authorities. Race for indecent profits, endangering national security, abuse of a dominant position to the detriment of consumers and SMEs. Some are sanctioned and the founders are asked to take a step back. Finally, the sector is strongly invited to generously support the causes dear to power through philanthropy.

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If the objectives declared by the Chinese government can overlap with those pursued by the United States or the European Union against the Gafam, we must not be mistaken: seen from Beijing, the goal is above all to strengthen the control of data, an essential cog in ensuring the CCP’s supremacy. Long showcases of the emerging power of China, the Internet giants must now suddenly fall into line.

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At the same time, calls for stricter supervision of young people are increasing. Online video game usage time is now limited to three hours a week. At the start of the school year, primary school students discovered a new textbook inviting them to “Correctly button the first button of life”, while explaining to them “Grandfather Xi’s expectations” towards them.

The concept of “common prosperity”, enunciated in 1953 by Mao when the land was grouped into cooperatives, was also taken out of the mothballs and brought up to date. Quick enrichment has become suspect. Real estate speculation is under surveillance. The huge and highly profitable evening school market, which mainly benefits children in the wealthier categories, has been called upon to switch to a non-profit model.

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