Chinese officials on Thursday laid out an argument for China to play a leading role in global internet governance as they solicited international support for a new framework based on regulation and order rather than Western values of unfettered access and openness.
Speaking in Beijing, foreign ministry and cyberspace affairs officials unveiled China’s first cyber policy paper while stating that China would beef up its cyberwarfare capacities to defend against foreign threats. “Cyberattacks, cyber espionage, surveillance have become major issues confronting all countries,” said the coordinator for the foreign ministry’s cyber affairs division, Long Zhou.
China has long defended its right to impose own standards in cyber fields such as censorship, data privacy and business regulation in the name of national security. The new policy paper effectively codified the Communist Party leadership’s claim that countries should wield sovereign authority over all cyber-related matters within their territory.
Describing the internet as rife with subversive thought, religious extremism, pornography, fake news and financial scams, Long said China “stands ready to work together with Russia and BRICS partners,” as well as other countries on new governance measures.
BRICS is an organization of large emerging economies grouping Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. China is hosting its annual summit this year as part of efforts to elevate the group’s international status. The new policy paper emerges as the country’s leaders have talked up Beijing’s desire to be a world leader in economic globalization and diplomatic multilateralism, at a time with President Donald Trump is questioning trade agreements and pushing his own brand of American economic nationalism.
China is seen as sensing an opportunity to bolster its influence and aggrandize its blend of authoritarian politics, strict social controls and limited free market economics. The sovereignty argument has underpinned China’s justification for a massive internet censorship apparatus that critics say hampers free speech and open trade.
Chinese officials have evangelized the concept at international forums in recent years, arguing that developing countries should join Beijing in demanding a greater say over global internet governance, which is currently dominated by the United States and liberal Western thinking. Beijing’s sophisticated censorship tool, known as the “Great Firewall,” blocks numerous social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and the government has broadened police powers to collect personal data for law enforcement.