BEIJING (Reuters) - The Internet is the most important front in China's ideological battle against "Western anti-China forces", the country's military newspaper said on Wednesday, adding that online controls were essential to the government's survival.
Calls to reject Western thought and values have grown stronger under President Xi Jinping, who has urged more "ideological guidance" at universities and the study of Marxism.
Like many officials before him, Xi is steeped in the long-held belief of the ruling Communist Party that loosening control could bring chaos and the break-up of China.
China must defend its "sovereignty" in cyberspace with ideological purity, or "the public will be led astray by the enemy," the People's Liberation Army Daily said in a commentary reposted on the website of Seeking Truth, a leading Communist Party journal.
"Western hostile forces, as well as a few 'ideological traitors' in our country, are using the Internet on their computers and mobile phones to viciously attack our party," it added.
"The fundamental purpose is to use 'universal values' to confuse us, and 'constitutional democracy' to disturb us."
The Communist Party has long railed against Western values, including concepts such as multi-party democracy, judicial independence and universal human rights.
The commentary called for a massive "Red Army" of "seed-planters and propaganda teams" to defend the "online Great Wall".
China operates one of the world's most sophisticated online censorship mechanisms, known abroad as the Great Firewall. Censors keep a grip on what can be published online, particularly content seen as potentially undermining the party.
"Western anti-China forces have consistently sought in vain to make use of the Internet to topple China," the commentary added, calling control of the Internet a "hidden war" for the hearts and minds of the public.
Reporting by Megha Rajagopalan; Editing by Clarence Fernandez