NOTE: This translation was originally published on the China Copyright and Media blog, a project of DigiChina’s Prof. Rogier Creemers of the University of Leiden. It has not been edited, double-checked, or standardized with DigiChina’s original content. Read more.
This article by CAC director Lu Wei was published in People’s Daily in July 2010, when he was vice-director at Xinhua.
Lu Wei (Vice-Director, Xinhua News Agency)
Against the background of economic globalization, the information revolution is currently making global circumstances more complex through its cross-border, cross-organizational and cross-terrain impact. Information flows no longer consist of simple information communication, they guide capital, influence markets and decide on trade. Whoever effectively controls discourse power, grasps the orientation of information circulation. Discourse power and information security have become important symbols of economic soft power and even national soft power.
The meaning of national discourse power and information security.
The word “discourse” originated in cultural linguistics long ago, it refers to the exchange of meanings between a speaker and a recipient by means of language and other such symbols. Following the development of the times, the content and extent of “discourse” have seen a profound expansion of meaning. Once “discourse” is formed, it communicates specific value views, there are specific norms, and specific knowledge systems are built. “Quán” has a double meaning in law, one of “right” and one of “power”, this means that “huayuquan” not only refers to the right to speak but also to the fact that the effectiveness and power of speech must be guaranteed.
National discourse power is the influence of a country’s “speech” in the world. It can be divided into political discourse power, economic discourse power, cultural discourse power, military discourse power, foreign affairs discourse power, public opinion discourse power, etc. Against the background of economic globalization, economic discourse power decides a country’s influence, financial discourse power lies at its strength, and it includes both levels of collection power and communication power. Collection power refers to whether or not one is able to collect information from all areas in the world in real time, according to a country’s needs, especially where this concerns financial market information. The more timely and complete this can be collected, the stronger collection power is, and the larger communication power becomes. Collection power decides communication power, communication power decides influence, and influence decides soft power.
Information is an important strategic resource for social development, it is a basis for sustaining production activities, economic activities and social activities, and incessantly promotes the deepening of the global industrial division of labour and the adjustment of economic structures, it remoulds the structure of global economic competition. At present, there are two main communication channels for specialist information bodies: the first is the media channel, which includes news agencies, newspapers, periodicals, radio, television, the Internet and other such mass media; the second is the non-media channel, which mainly refers to directly interfacing with government bodies, enterprise and undertaking work units, financial organs and other such communication channels outside of the media, they are not perceived by the masses, and yet directly influence policymaking. Information disseminated on financial market mainly relies on the latter channels.
Information security is the extent and status of security in the process of information dissemination, storage and use. It can also be divided into political information security, economic information security, cultural information security, military information security, foreign affairs information security, public opinion information security, etc. Against the background of economic globalization, economic information security affects national security, it has financial market information security at its core, and includes both levels of content security and technological security. At present, large-scale capital market trading and financial circulation are realized through trading platforms in a networked manner. One-sided, false and distorted information may mislead capital and upset markets, loss of control over core technology, network leaks as well as hackers, viruses and so on may make large amounts of capital vanish in an instant. Without information security, there is no trading security, and there is no financial security or economic security, there will also not be national security in the complete sense.
National discourse power and information security are closely connected and inseparable. Without discourse power, it will not be possible to realize sustainable information security in the true sense of the world; without information security, it is also not possible to have strong and effective discourse power. The improvement of national discourse power is the basis to realize information security, the realization of information security provides guarantees for the improvement of national discourse power.
In the present world, the status quo of national discourse power and information security merits consideration. The information communication order is not fair, and information security is controlled by a small number of countries, these are the main contradictions. First, information resources are not allocated in a balanced manner, but there is a structure of a “twenty-eighty separation”. 20 per cent of the global population has 80 per cent of the information resources, 80 per cent of the population only enjoys 20% of the information resources. “Information-wealthy countries” and “information-poor countries” are gravely polarized, the “digital divide” not only has not been eliminated, but shows trends of increase in some areas. Second, information circulation is not equitable. The quantity of information from developed countries to developing countries is more than a hundred times larger than that of information from developing countries going to developed countries, numerous developing countries cannot actively and effectively communicate their own information and enjoy the information they require in a timely and comprehensive manner. Third, the information communication order is unfair and unjust. The dissemination of financial information is mainly grasped in the hands of a small number of information bodies, they represent the interests of minority groups, and monopolize the entire process of information collection processing, publication and communication.
Western developed countries rely on their economic, military, scientific and technological superiority, to emerge with the identity of “speaker” at public occasions at every turn, meaning that Western discourse structures have become global “prevalent discourse”. Prevalent discourse often contains latent discursive hegemony, depriving other countries of the right to speak, to say even less about their discursive power. One important cause for this international financial crisis, is that information collection power has been monopolized, communication power has been controlled, risks have been hidden, the reality has been concealed, a mistaken information current has deceived investors, driving capital into the abyss. After the financial crisis erupted, developed countries used their superior discourse power to shift their risks onto other countries, and developing countries have striven untiringly to strengthen their discourse power in the international financial system.
The current state of developing countries’ discourse power can be described as a deficiency of discourse power: they are not able to communicate, what is communicated becomes distorted, they are not able to collect, and what they collect is unreliable. First, the inability to communicate. If some day, on the information platform of a large stock exchange such as Wall Street, the news about China only is a bit of information about a mining disaster, it rolls by repeatedly. That day’s valuable information about China certainly will not be only this matter, but because we don’t have our own financial information platform, objective information cannot be sent into the global commodities market, it can only be selected and broadcast by others according to their value system. Second, the inability to collect. The financial information in major global financial markets is often monopolized by Western information bodies, the data developing countries need is often imported or bought in. All policymaking analysis is built on second-hand data, and one can well imagine the results. In 2008, Xinhua News Agency established a financial information collection point in Wall Street, and so far, it still is the only one established by a developing country in Wall Street.
The current state of developing countries’ information security can be described as a lack of guarantees for information security: there is a lack of core technologies, and there is a lack of control capacity. First, the lack of core technologies. The core technology of financial information platforms is mainly grasped in the hands of Western information bodies, developing countries – including China – are utterly dependent on them. In the 1970s and 1980s, when China’s capital markets were initially set up, a number of Western bodies took the initiative to give service terminals to our country’s financial bodies, and so imperceptibly controlled our country’s financial information security. Second, the lack of control capacity. Domestic financial bodies have, for a long time, received information through foreign service terminals, and engaged in trade, this not only required the payment of high amounts of service charges, it also meant the humiliating acceptance of “despotic clauses”, what talk of control capacity could there be? As our Agency learned through investigation and research, one important cause for the 2004 China Aviation Oil incident was that the leaks of trading data emerged in the trading process, and that the Chinese trader ran into a joint ambush of his opponents. International scalpers knew our situation like the back of their hand, while we weren’t clear about the opponent’s situation.
In safeguarding national discourse power and information security, the key lies in raising national strength, this must be realized through comprehensive measures, including controlling core information technologies, perfecting legal structures and systems, etc. Specifically, constructing a financial information platform with indigenous intellectual property rights is a matter of immediate urgency. This platform should have the following characteristics. First, integration. It must be able to provide comprehensive financial services to financial organs and other such users, that involve many kinds of financial products, it must integrate the entire process, from the collection and analysis of first-hand pre-trade information and the delivery and execution of orders during trading, to after-trading account settlement, completion of transactions, information feedback, users background support system information processing into one system, so that he entire process can be completed in a few seconds. Second, scale and efficiency. This system must communicate market information on a large sale, including pre-trade market trends, changes in economic and social circumstances, real-time market values and other such information, and also including post-trading transaction amounts, exercise prices and other such data. Third, connection and interactivity. As long as traders are connected with electronic trading systems, their location does not constitute a barrier against whether or not trades should take place; this permits continuous multilateral interaction, and it is possible to make cross-border trade more convenient, and to accelerate convergence of many different market systems.
According to the requirements of the Central Committee and the State Council, Xinhua News Agency has taken the initiative to research and develop the financial information platform “Xinhua 08”, which provides information and trading support services to financial bodies and non-financial enterprises who participate in global financial trading, filling a lacuna for developing countries. At present, “Xinhua 08” closely focuses on the Renminbi market, and has become an important auxiliary project in the progress of Renminbi internationalization. Concerning strengthening discourse power, “Xinhua 08” focuses on expanding the collection power of global financial information, and has successively established financial information collection points in global financial centres; it strives to expand China’s market information communication power, and has established service networks in many languages and for many kinds of terminals aimed at global financial markets, it has the ability to communicate information in all kinds of weathers, and has realized three-dimensional publication for computer terminals, mobile terminals, video terminals, the Internet, the big screen, etc. Through providing Renminbi asset analysis tools and pricing models, as well as Renminbi asset trading support systems, it has raised pricing power over Renminbi assets. In the area of strengthening information security, “Xinhua 08” is a Chinese, highly efficient, reliable and safe system with indigenous intellectual property rights. At present, it can provide dozens of services to users, including information, market quotations, data, analysis, modelling, trading, consulting, publication, individualized services, etc., The indigenously developed Renminbi bond system is, at present, the only analysis system that is able to provide real-time yield curves on Renminbi bonds. 40 indigenously developed financial models are accurate to eight decimal figures, exceeding the accuracy of similar kinds of current products from around the world.
To strengthen national discourse power and information security, apart from concrete measures, it is also necessary to raise the entire society’s levels of understanding and the degree of impotence it receives, to raise the entire people’s financial cultivation, and construct a modern financial system with rational structures, complete functions, which is efficient and safe. In all of this, we must start from spreading financial knowledge. First, we must spread financial knowledge to leading cadres at all levels. Studying financial knowledge and researching financial problems is a necessary form of cultivation for new kinds of leading cadres in new times, and is an urgent requirement to raise their ability to master the market economy. Xinhua has cooperated with the Pudong Cadre Academy to set up the “Xinhua 08” financial laboratory. Since the laboratory opened in 2008, it trained nearly 1000 leading cadres from various levels in total, and became the most demanded laboratory in the Pudong Cadre Academy, second, spreading financial knowledge to the masses. At present, the masses’ enthusiasm to participate in the capital markets and the corresponding lack of financial society in the entire society has become a grave contradiction, which directly influences the speed and quality of capital market development, and threatens the secure operation and healthy development of capital markets. The “Xinhua 08” channel launched a special “financial classroom” column, which invited authoritative experts and scholars from the financial world to explain knowledge, analyse markets, warn about risks, and show opportunities. We have also organized the compilation of the “Xinhua 08 Chinese-English Financial Dictionary” and other such practical reference works that are suited to the Chinese market. Third, spreading financial knowledge to media employees. Which kind of media a country has decides which kind of value system it can build; the overall levels of the media to a certain degree reflect the overall quality of society. In recent years, the proportion of financial and economic reporting has increased among the various kinds of Xinhua reporting. The China Economic Information Agency, the Economic Information Editorial Department and the China Finance Corporation Ltd., which operates “Xinhua 08”, have become China’s largest economic information dissemination bodies. “Economic Reference”, “China Securities News” and “Shanghai Securities News”, which belong to Xinhua News Agency, have become the core forces of China’s financial and economic newspapers and periodicals. Xinhua News Agency has also organized the first economic analyst teams, they provide more than 3000 specialized economic analysis reports per year, which meet with great welcome.
Strengthening national discourse power is not engaging in national discourse hegemony; safeguarding information security is not closing off information. Only if every country has equal discourse power, will there be a globally equal discourse structure; only if every country’s information security can be guaranteed, can global information exchange become smooth and efficient. Strengthening national discourse power and information security, at a global level, and within a global structure, means the abolition of “information discrimination” levelling the “digital divide”, establishing a new, fair and reasonable international financial information communication order, to let capital from the entire world circulate even more rationally, to let global financial markets develop even more healthily, to let even more people from developing countries share in the fruits of information globalization, and in the end, to realize the common flourishing of human society.