On Thursday, the establishment of a new Central Committee leading group for Internet and information technology matters, the Central Leading Group for Cybersecurity and Informatization was announced. The group is chaired by Xi Jinping, with Premier Li Keqiang and the ex-head of the Central Propaganda Department, Liu Yunshan as vice directors.
According to a Xinhua analysis, this move reflects the Centre’s determination at the highest levels of Chinese politics do deepen reform and strengthen top-level design, as well as to protect national security, safeguard national interests and promote the development of information technology. 20 years after the arrival of the Internet in China, there are now more than 600 million users, more than 80% of which use mobile technology; furthermore, there are 18.44 million domestic domain names and nearly 4 million websites, three of which are among the ten largest Internet sites in the world. 300 million netizens shop online, and the total scale of e-commerce exceeds 10 trillion Yuan. Conversely, in Xinhua’s view, this scale does not translate in strength. There is a lack of indigenous information, a great urban-rural digital divide and low levels of broadband connectivity. Furthermore, it claims that China is the main victim of online attacks, with Trojans and botnets controlling nearly 900.000 host IPs, and regular infringement of personal privacy and citizens’ lawful rights and interests. In terms of governance, Xinhua argues that for historical reasons, administrative management power over the Internet has been fragmented, a problem earmarked for resolution at last year’s 3rd Plenum. Furthermore, other measures have been taken to expand control over online security and informatization, including measures to broaden domestic demand.
In Xinhua’s view, various countries have taken initiatives to strengthen Internet security and top-level design. It indicates that more than 40 countries have published cybersecurity strategies, while the United States has published more than 40 documents concerning cybersecurity and set up a cybersecurity office within the White House. Germany and France are seen to discuss the establishment of an independent European Internet in order to avoid U.S. interference and protect data security, while a new data protection bill lies in front of EU lawmakers. Japan and India have also published cybersecurity strategies in 2013. It follows that the establishment of a national cybersecurity structure is a necessary move by the Chinese leadership.
From Xi Jinping’s speech (excerpts translated hereunder), it seems that this new leading group will have comprehensive powers over the entire online sector, including economic, political, cultural, social and military matters, and it can be expected that it will start formulating strategies and policy objectives relatively soon. Xinhua expects particular moves to be made in formulating development plans for information and network technology research, development and industrialization, structures combining military and civil structures, even stronger online information content management rules, regulations to protect core information infrastructure, etc. There will also be increasing support for professional training programmes.
According to an article published in the Overseas Edition of the People’s Daily, Internet governance is taking a clear turn for the better. While in the past, online rumours and online crime had proliferated, the recent crackdown on Internet and social media, the judicial interpretation on online content, and the recent plans for cyberspace reform are creating a new, sophisticated governance structure with a range of tools to control cyberspace. Furthermore, it claims that Internet security has become inseparable from national security, particularly mentioning the PRISM programme as one of the reasons for China’s concerns.
The general tone of the press releases mirrors earlier evolutions in fields including innovation and culture, where China is moving from a position that it defines from “large” to “strong”. In international terms, this means that it will most likely try to weigh more heavily on international Internet governance and the development of bilateral and multilateral protocols for particular areas, such as data protection. It may aim to enhance its control of the Internet infrastructure, including the construction of more root servers. Conversely, it may look to attenuate its reliance on foreign hardware and software suppliers, and substitute them with home grown products.
Xinhua also published some excerpts from Xi Jinping’s speech at the opening ceremony:
In his speech, Xi Jinping pointed out that in the present world, in which the information technology revolution changes every day, which profoundly influences developments in international political, economic, cultural, social, military and other areas. Informatization and economic globalization mutually stimulate each other, the Internet has already penetrated into every aspect of social life, and profoundly changed the people’s ways of production and life. Our country is in the middle of this great wave, and the influence it experiences grows ever deeper. Our country’s Internet and informatization work has seen remarkable development achievements, the network has marched into millions of households, it is the global number one in terms of netizen numbers, our country has become a large cyber country. At the same time, we must also consider that we are considerably backward in the area of indigenous innovation, there are relatively clear discrepancies between regions, and between urban and rural areas, and especially the difference with international advanced levels of per capita broadband is relatively large, domestic Internet development bottlenecks remain relatively prominent.
Xi Jinping stressed that cybersecurity and informatization can affect the whole situation in many areas of one country with one slight move, we must clearly understand the circumstances and tasks that we face, fully understand the importance and urgency of doing work well, plan matters according to trends, move in response to trends, and act in line with trends. Cybersecurity and informatization are two wings of one bird, two wheels of one cart, we must uniformly plan, uniformly deploy, uniformly move forward, and uniformly implement matters. To do cybersecurity and informatization work well, we must deal well with the relationship between security and development, ensure coordination and consistency, move forward across the board, protect development with security, stimulate security with development, strive to build a long trend of peace and order.
Xi Jinping pointed out that doing public opinion work well is a long-term task, we must innovate and improve online propaganda, use the laws of network dissemination, carry the main melody forward, arouse positive energy, forcefully foster and practice the Socialist core value system, grasp the timing, degree and effect of online public opinion guidance, and ensure that cyberspace becomes clean and crisp.
Xi Jinping stressed that network information circulates across national borders, information flows guide technology flows, finance flows and talent flows, information resources become more important production factors and social assets every day, the amount of information control has become an important symbol for national soft power and competitiveness. The extent of information technology and industry development decide the level of informatization development, we must strengthen indigenous innovation of core technologies and the construction of infrastructure, increase capacity for information collection, processing, dissemination, use and security, and extend them to the people’s livelihoods even better.
Xi Jinping pointed out that without cybersecurity, there is no national security, and without informatization, there is no modernization. To build a strong cyber country, we must have our own technology and have technology that is up to scratch; we must have rich and complete information services, and a flourishing and developing online culture; we must have a good information infrastructure, and shape a powerful and solid information economy; we must have high-quality cybersecurity and informatization talent teams; we must vigorously launch bilateral and multilateral international cooperation and exchange concerning the Internet. The strategic deployment of building a strong cyber country must be moved forward in step with the “Two Centuries” struggle objective, and incessantly progress in the direction of the objectives of the fundamental dissemination of network infrastructure, a clear strengthening of indigenous innovation capacity, the comprehensive development of the information economy, and powerful cybersecurity protection.
Xi Jinping stressed that we must formulate complete information technology and network technology research and development plans, and spend great efforts to resolve the problem of transforming the fruits of scientific research. We must roll out policies to support enterprise development, let them become new pillars for technological innovation, and become the mainstays of information industry development. We must grasp the formulation of legislative plans, perfect laws and regulations on Internet information content management and crucial information infrastructure, etc., govern cyberspace according to the law, and safeguard citizens’ lawful rights and interests.
Xi Jinping stressed that to build a strong cyber country, we must concentrate talent resources, and build a line of formidable teams that are strong politically, excellent professionally, and have a good work style. “A thousand troops are easy to raise, one general is hard to find”, we must foster and train word-class scientists, pioneering network technology talents, brilliant engineers, and high-level innovation teams.
Xi Jinping stressed that the Central Leading Group for Cybersecurity and Informatization must play a concentrated and uniform leadership role, comprehensively coordinate major issues in all areas of cybersecurity and informatization, formulate and implement national cybersecurity and informatization development strategies, macro-level plans and major policies, and incessantly strengthen capacity for security protection.