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In the past decade, there has been a tendency to use the technical term \u201cGolden Shield Project\u201d
as a synonym for the colloquial expressions \u201cGreat Firewall\u201d or \u201cNet Nanny\u201d, which refer to China's
active censorship and monitoring of Internet content. This mistake has not only been made by Western
observers, but Chinese ones as well. There has been a lack of material, however, describing what the
Golden Shield Project has involved since its inception in 1998 (Walton: 2001). While the GSP is fact
related to Internet monitoring, it plays a minor role in what has been an extraordinary nationwide
initiative in China to \u201cinformatize\u201d every aspect of the Ministry of Public Security's workflow at local,
provincial and national levels. Golden Shield is better described as an effort to network the police,
rather than police the network. The first section of this paper seeks to examine the goals and
implementation of the Golden Shield Project as reported in online Chinese media and government
reports, as well as touch upon the cultural context of policing in China and its relevance to China's
digital police reforms. The conclusion will attempt to place some of these developments into a proper
global context, arguing that China is not a \u201ctestbed\u201d for global surveillance and policing technology,
but rather is catching up to the industrialized West within its own cultural context.
The Golden Shield Project has often been mentioned in Western media reports in the same
breath as Internet censorship (Fallows: 2008, August: 2006, Klein: 2008, Walton: 2001, Zhang: 2005),
but this misrepresents the goals of the GSP. The GSP is better understood as a national initiative to
'informatize' (xinxihua) the public security apparatus. The Chinese leadership has seen 'informatization'
as a fundamental part of its drive towards modernization since the late 1980s, influenced by Alvin
Toffler's The Third Wave and then spurred after witnessing the Clinton administration's focus on
developing the Internet industry in the U.S.. The government began with an \u201cOffice Automation
Project\u201d in the late 1980s to introduce computers to all levels of Chinese government (Zhang: 2005).
The Golden Shield is part and parcel of a larger array of Golden Projects, of which there are at
least twelve, covering the financial industry, social security, agriculture, tax collection, customs, water
management, manufacturing standards, government auditing, IC card technology and more (Guo: 2006.
A 2003 overview (China.com.cn: 2003) described the Project as encompassing the construction and
securing of PSB communications and networking, computer application development, the
establishment of ministry-wide IT standards and practices, as well as \u201cpublic network security
monitoring\u201d, or the Cyberpolice. The Project has overseen the development of eight nationwide
networked databases for police purposes:
\ue000 Population management
\ue000 Criminal records
\ue000 Fu gi t i v es
\ue000 Stolen vehicles
\ue000 Motor vehicles/drivers licenses
\ue000 Border control
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