Fifth Generation: Who is Liu Yunshan?

This is the third in a series of posts examining the Chinese leaders expected to be named to the Politburo Standing Committee during the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (中国共产党) that kicked off November 8.  Prior installments on Zhang Gaoli here and Zhang Dejiang here.

Liu Yunshun  (刘云山), more than almost any other person in the People’s Republic of China, is responsible for the execution of the so-called ‘Great Firewall’ — that mix of controls that censors access to the Internet within China.

This isn’t a history of the ‘Great Firewall,’ but if you haven’t, go read James Fallows’s essential piece on Internet censorship in China in The Atlantic, and you’ll start to understand why Liu is a natural choice for elevation to the Politburo Standing Committee.  As Fallows writes, there’s really not one ‘Great Firewall,’ but a sophisticated systems of controls.  Internet-based data comes to China via three major choke points: from Japan to Beijing/Tianjin, from Japan to Shanghai, and from Hong Kong to Guangzhou, making it easier for China to censor information coming into the country with a number of technologically-enabled strategies.  Furthermore, although the system is relatively easily circumvented by a proxy server or, to better effect, with a virtual private network (VPN), few Chinese citizens can afford or seem willing to go through the hassle of circumventing the ‘Great Firewall.’

Liu (pictured above), aged 65, has been a Politburo member since 2002, and since 2007, he been the director of the Party’s propaganda department, and so the PRC’s chief official responsible for propaganda and censorship.

He’s vice chair of the Party’s splendidly euphemistic Central Guidance Commission for Building Spiritual Civilization, which essentially controls the Party’s propaganda department, currently chaired by outgoing Politburo Standing Committee member Li Changchun — Liu is expected to succeed Li upon his ascension to the Politburo Standing Committee as the PRC’s top ‘propaganda czar,’ where he is expected to continue the Party’s strict controls over media and Internet censorship.

Liu’s background is unique in three ways. Continue reading Fifth Generation: Who is Liu Yunshan?