By S. M. Hali
The second World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province provided China and President Xi Jinping the perfect opportunity to review the realm of cyber space and call for reforms to regulate this powerful medium. As the most rapidly developing nation in the world even in the field of internet and cyberspace, China has the right to call for different countries to be allowed to set their own rules for cyberspace and govern the Internet as they see fit.
In his keynote address, President Xi called for the international community to “respect the right of individual countries to choose their own path to cyber development, model of cyber regulation and participate on the same footing.”
Xi’s powerful observations come in the backdrop of international groups targeting China’s own standards of regulations pertaining to internet and cyberspace. Some critics have gone to the extent of China’s regulatory apparatus to be the “Great Firewall.”
Such a callous observation without understanding the particular milieu of any country, especially a highly populous and progressive society like China is unfair. Lu Wei, head of the Cyberspace Administration of China, speaking to reporters ahead of the event, stated that said that China does not censor the internet but it regulates it. He rationalized that “If we really censor the Internet, how come our Internet user population and their reliance on the Internet keep growing? Let me tell you, China has four million websites, nearly 700 million Internet users, 1.2 billion mobile phone users as well as 600 million WeChat and Weibo users. Every day they post 30 billion messages. It’s simply impossible for any country or organization to censor 30 billion messages.”
Xi hit out at the double standards being practiced by certain countries. On the one hand, they talk of “freedom of expression” while on the other, they snoop on their own citizens as well as their rivals while if China sets in norms for the use of cyberspace by its own people, they find faults with it.
Xi cried out: “No country should interfere in other countries internal affairs or support activities … that undermine other countries’ national security.”
On the contrary, the same Occidental nations use technology like drones and other devices to eavesdrop and censor their own citizens’ e-mails, cell phone, social media and even conversations in the four walls of their homes.
Many observers have pointed to the irony of holding an “Internet conference” in China, The Wuzhen forum had previously advanced a “multilateral” approach to global Internet governance that focuses on “the state making the rules based on the idea of the sovereignty of the nation-state representing its citizens.”
In his keynote speech Xi reiterated this idea, saying that countries should work together to “build an Internet governance system to promote equity and justice.”
“International cyberspace governance should promote a multilateral approach.”
Beijing has long emphasized a need for “a new global Internet governance system,”
Beijing has also sought the support from multinational Internet companies for cyber sovereignty. In September, when President Xi met his US counterpart, he re-emphasized the need to respect each other’s cyberspace and put in checks and balances to respect national security or consumer rights.
Chinese President’s call for jointly building a community of shared future in cyberspace must be paid heed to. This is the age of information but seeking information must have limits and a respect for security and sovereignty. Fostering a peaceful, secure, open and cooperative cyberspace and the building of a multilateral, democratic and transparent global Internet governance system is the need of the hour.
Imbalanced development, inadequate rules and inequitable order will only create chaos and add to the problems and challenges concerning the Internet. Xi’s prescribed solution to bridging the widening information gap between countries and regions is creating a new cyber world order and merits cognizance.
Like other fields, even in the use of cyber space, since gaining access to the Internet 21 years ago, China has followed a policy of “a proactive utilization, rational development, law-based management and assurance of security. Unfortunately, “Cyber surveillance, cyber attacks and cyber terrorism have become a global scourge,” according to Xi.
With around 670 million users and over 4.13 million websites in China, the Internet and economic and social development have become intrinsically linked.
China will vigorously implement the national cyber development strategy, the national big data strategy, and the “Internet Plus” action plan in the next five years, said Xi.
The event was a roaring success because co-hosted by the Cyberspace Administration of China and the Zhejiang provincial government, the three-day conference was attended by more than 2,000 people from over 120 countries and regions. Some notable names include Jack Ma, Pony Ma and Li Yanhong, the heads of Internet giants Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu.
Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Massimov, Kyrgyz Prime Minister Temir Sariyev, Tajik Prime Minister Qohir Rasulzoda, First Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan Rustam Azimov, the International Telecommunication Union Secretary-General Zhao Houlin and World Economic Forum founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab also addressed the opening ceremony.
It is hoped that China’s condemnation of physical hegemony being extended to the denunciation of cyber hegemony, non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs or engaging in, conniving at or supporting cyber activities that undermine other countries’ national security will be observed by other nations too.
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Special coverage on China's Two Party Sessions by The Daily Mail - People's Daily