The 3rd World Internet Conference was held in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province from Nov 16 to 18. This has been China’s third time to host the event, which has become a significant platform for national governments, businesses and academic circles to communicate on international governance of the cyber space. Although he couldn’t be present in person, Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a video message at the opening ceremony. In his speech, Xi reiterated China’s wish for building a cyber community of shared destiny. China is demonstrating with a series of practical actions that cyber community of shared destiny is not a broad yet empty concept, but a tangible, realistic, and achievable goal. A cyber community of shared destiny will also become an important foundation for China’s cooperation with the upcoming new US government regarding cyberspace, the Chinese side is eager to continue effective bilateral cooperation in the field.
At the first WIC in November 2014, Xi put forward the concept of a “cyber community of shared destiny”. At last year’s event, Xi offered a detailed explanation of the concept, proposing five specific points, including accelerating construction of global Internet infrastructure, promoting transnational cultural exchanges via the Internet, facilitating online economic innovation, preserving cyber security, promoting international governance of the cyber space. Such proposals demonstrate China’s basic understanding of cyber space development, cyber security, and corresponding international cooperation, China also hopes to push forward international cooperation on cyber security under such a consensus and common goal.
In order to promote international cooperation, China has also played constructive, instrumental roles in such international organizations for cyber space governance as the WSIS, IGF, UNGGE and ICANN.
The 2016 G20 summit in Hangzhou for the first time incorporated the “digital economy” as an important G20 topic, passed the “G20 Digital Economy Development and Cooperation Initiative”, the first international policy document signed jointly by multiple national leaders.
The concept of “cyber community of shared destiny” has three core components. First, just like the theme of the latest conference, “Innovation-Driven Internet Development for the Benefit of All”, the concept emphasizes that the international community has a common mission in preserving cyber security, promoting Internet technology development and sharing the dividends of the Internet economy. Each country has witnessed the tremendous changes Internet technologies have brought to society and to people’s livelihoods in recent years. In more and more countries, Internet technology is no longer a luxury, but has become a necessity in everyday life. Nearly 50% of global population has been covered by the Internet, and more than half of Internet users have access to the convenience of broadband communications. On the other hand, the Internet gap between developed and developing countries remains; in the least developed nations, the cost of Internet access is still unaffordable. We have seen the sea changes the Internet has made in China and India, yet these changes have yet to materialize in many under-developed nations. The Internet is not the private property of any country, and its dividends should be shared by all human beings — the ultimate goal of building a “cyber community of shared destiny”.
Second, the concept is based on respect for cyber sovereignty. The Internet is free of national borders, but network infrastructure, personal information and Internet users, upon which the Internet relies, are divided by national boundaries. China insists that the United Nations’ principles apply to the cyber space, each country can deal with the Internet in ways it deems appropriate, and free of outside interference. Cyber sovereignty is the basis for each country to enjoy equal rights in cyberspace, and will prevent the “law of the jungle” as well as big-power hegemony in the new realm.
Third, the concept holds that peace and harmony should be the main theme on the Internet. China explicitly opposes militarization of cyberspace, cyber crimes, cyber attack and cyber violence, and hopes all countries can reach a consensus on curtailing such “negative energy” in the cyber space, and promote international cooperation.
Some recent phenomena in cyberspace corroborated the necessity of building the “cyber community of shared destiny”. Some passive tendencies in cyberspace in the past year have caused worries worldwide.
The risk of militarization of cyberspace has increased. Prior to the US presidential campaign, the US and Russia had come into fierce contradiction in cyberspace, the US repeatedly accusing Russia of launching cyber attacks and attempting to influence its general election. It also threatened to engage in a counter-attack, even a big power cyber war. In November, the US announced its cyber troops have developed initial capabilities for practical combat, setting a dangerous precedent for the international community.
Also, cyber crimes and hackers have become even more rampant. Since the beginning of this year, large-scale information leaks have taken place in the US, Russia, Turkey and China: Hackers stole private information of millions of individuals and sold the information on the Internet. Such incidents are damaging public confidence in the Internet, and may negatively influence the development and application of Internet technologies for a fairly long period.
China and the US are aware of the importance of cooperation in cyberspace. Since 2015, the two countries have held two rounds of high-level dialogue on fighting cyber crimes and related matters, made multiple achievements and reached a number of understandings, successfully prevented mutual suspicion from worsening. China wishes to sustain bilateral cooperation mechanisms regarding cyber issues, and to expand cooperation concerning international multilateral regimes. Some scholars believe, with his isolationist tendency, Donald Trump may take a passive attitude toward international governance and international cooperation as the next US president. But China and the US should have consensus on collaboration in cyberspace. The threats and potential risks in brook no footdragging, they are clear and present dangers. China-US cooperation in cyberspace not only will stimulate humanity’s sharing of Internet dividends, but is also in both countries’ fundamental interest.