During the Bastille Day celebrations in Nice in southern France, a truck plowed into the crowds watching a fireworks display, killing at least 84 and injuring more than 200. The world was shocked and joined in condemning the terror attack. On July 16, the extremist group Islamic State had issued a statement claiming responsibility for the Nice attack. The next day, French investigators found that the attacker, Mohamed Bouhlel, a Tunisian-French Muslim, sent a chilling text message to someone on his mobile phone, reading “Bring More Weapons”, just minutes before the attack. Before the tragedy, the French intelligence agencies never had any record of Bouhlel, and he was not under surveillance. French authorities said that there was a possibility that he became an extremist in a very short period of time.
The Nice attack marked yet another fatal blow on Europe following the attacks in Paris in November 2015 and in Brussels in March 2016. Frequent terror attacks not only pose direct challenges to the core values of Europe, but also force the world to contemplate an important and practical question: How to uproot the cyberspace spreading of terrorism. It took a long time for France and Europe as a whole to recover from the scourges of World War II, and to create their model of European integration and valuable experience in leading to globalization. Nowadays, however, the most invaluable treasures in the history of human development are at risk in the face of surging terrorism and the worsening security situation.
The high degree of integration between cyberspace and the real world has made cyberspace an important venue for the unchecked spreading of terrorism. Terror threats that France now has to face come not only from some foreign countries, but also from within France, arising from the fertile breeding ground in cyberspace. This makes it more difficult to predict and prevent. In the move to effectively address the issue of spreading terrorism and safeguard Europe, it has become critical to stability and security to uproot the cyberspace channels used to spread terrorism. To this end, it is extremely important for Europe to convey the message that it is willing to cooperate with all countries to fight cyber terrorism, and to jointly explore ways for the security and governance of cyberspace.
In the past few years, progress has been made in international anti-terror cooperation in cyberspace, and a global platform has taken shape. But there is still much room for improvement on this front. We need to build and strengthen mutual trust to develop an effective system. “Improve” implies that the global security governance system still needs to be deepened and broadened. Under the circumstance in which the real world has become increasingly dependent on cyberspace, it is a challenging task to prevent the spreading of terrorism and extremist ideology, especially cyberattack activities, by terrorists. The international community, pursuant to the laws and norms of such international institutions as the United Nations, should strictly define and eliminate cyberspace terrorist activities.
It is worth mentioning that the cyberspace anti-terror front has an obvious feature of asymmetry. The United States dominates cyberspace in ways that far outpace its dominance in the real world. By virtue of its unique and unprecedented cyberspace resources and information-technology prowess, the US should be playing a leading role on the international cyberspace anti-terror front. In fact, the US realized the existence of problems with cyberspace long ago, but so far has not been able to find the key to solve these problems. The US approach of “nursing a viper in its bosom” has resulted in the resurgence of the terrorist forces, and the same situation hampers the anti-terror war in cyberspace. If the US, which has always practiced cyberspace hegemony, continues to apply interventionism under the disguise of cyberspace anti-terror, and continues to willfully abuse its dominant position in the cyberspace, it will not only cause damage to the hard-won international cooperation in the cyberspace anti-terror fight, but will also likely open the “Pandora’s Box” of extreme terrorists in the cyberspace, giving the terrorists the chance to master more technologies for cyberattacks and wreak havoc in cyberspace.
Cyberspace is an open society without national boundaries, in which no one should have special privileges. Equal participation and joint efforts by all governments, companies and citizens is critical if the cyberspace war against terrorism is to be won.
Cooperation among big countries and concerted efforts by the international community are essential.
China and the US, with eyes on future cooperation in the field of cyber security, have made efforts to find common ground while shelving differences, and to enhance mutual trust while reducing doubts, by means of their high-level dialogue mechanisms. The two countries have been working hard to elevate their cooperation in the cyberspace war against terrorism onto a higher level, and making it a new and bright point in their bilateral relations.