Persisting in Respect for the Principle of Cyber Sovereignty, Promoting the Construction of a Community of Common Destiny in Cyberspace

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The original text of this article was published in Seeking Truth, on 29 February 2016.

Lu Wei

Studying on Understanding and Reflecting on the Spirit of General Secretary Xi Jinping’s Important Speech at the 2nd World Internet Conference

Key points

– The Internet is a new space and a new garden for humanity, it requires new rules and a new order. Persisting in the four principles of respect for cyber sovereignty, safeguarding peace and security, stimulating openness and collaboration, and building a good order, as well as the five standpoints of accelerating the construction of global network infrastructure, forging shared platforms for online cultural exchange, promoting innovation and development of the network economy, guaranteeing cybersecurity, and building an Internet governance system, have opened up the “Wuzhen Process” for global Internet development and governance.

– The thriving of malpractice in international cyberspace governance is rooted in the question of sovereignty. Cyber sovereignty is rooted in modern legal theory, and is the extension of national sovereignty in cyberspace. Respect for cyber sovereignty is a necessary requirement for opposing cyber hegemony, it is am important guarantee for safeguarding peace and security, it is a basic precondition for persisting in openness and collaboration, and is a firm basis for building a desirable order.

– Cyberspace is a common space of activity for humankind, all countries should strengthen communication, broaden consensus and deepen collaboration, to jointly build a community of common destiny in cyberspace. Respect for cyber sovereignty is dialectically one with building a community of common destiny in cyberspace, cyber sovereignty is the precondition for building a community of common destiny in cyberspace, and the community of common destiny in cyberspace is a guarantee for cyber sovereignty.

– China is a firm advocate and powerful defender of cyber sovereignty, it persists in correctly handling the relationships between freedom and order, security and development, openness and autonomy in cyberspace, it is exploring and marching an Internet governance path with Chinese characteristics. China will further move forward the reform of the global Internet governance system, promote the formulation of more balanced international norms for cyberspace that reflect the desires and interests of the absolute majority of countries, to jointly promote the healthy development of the Internet.

Since the 18th Party Congress, the Party Centre with Xi Jinping as General Secretary has paid great attention to cybersecurity and informatization work, it correctly grasped the new circumstances, new tasks and new requirements for governing and administering the country in the information area, it established the Central Leading Group for Cybersecurity and Informatization, which Xi Jinping chairs in person. Over two years, General Secretary Xi Jinping has given a series of important speeches, in which he put forward the strategic objective of building a strong network country, scientifically responded to a series of major theoretical and practical questions concerning cybersecurity and informatization development, he pointed out the direction for progress in Internet information work, and provided a basic path to follow. General Secretary Xi Jinping has repeatedly elucidated our Internet governance positions and standpoints in international venues, and especially his important speech at the 2nd World Internet Congress has put forward, with clear banners flying, that we must move forward the reform of the global Internet governance system and build a community of common destiny in cyberspace. Recently, General Secretary clearly put forward, at the Party News and Public Opinion Work Conference, the duties and missions of Party news and public opinion work under the new circumstances of the times, he deeply elucidated the important position of new media in the media structure. Studying the spirit of General Secretary Xi Jinping’s important speech, is of great importance in building a peaceful, secure, open and collaborative cyberspace, and building a multilateral, democratic and transparent global Internet governance system.

I, Deeply understanding the major significance and profound influence of General Secretary Xi Jinping’s important speech

From 16 to 18 December, the 2nd World Internet Conference took place in Wuzhen, Zhejiang, over 2000 guests from over 120 countries and regions, and over 20 important international organizations gathered in Wuzhen, to talk freely about Internet matters, and for a while, the entire world gathered in Wuzhen, and the world was listening to China. General Secretary Xi Jinping gave a keynote speech at the opening ceremony, which systematically elucidated the major significance and profound influence of Internet development, and put forward “Four Principles” for the reform of the global Internet governance system and “Five Standpoints” for building a community of common destiny in cyberspace, it gained a warm response and strong resonance among the participants, and gained high praise and broad identification from international society.

General Secretary Xi Jinping’s important speech pointed out that the Internet is a new space and a new garden for humanity, it requires new rules and a new order, it displays a profound perception into the changes of the times, great concern for humanity’s welfare and a far-sighted, wise insight into future developments. Following the profound progress of the information revolution, cyberspace has become a new, important area for human activity just like land, sea, air and space. But in this new space, this new area, rules are not yet complete, order has not yet been established, challenges are increasing every day, cyber attacks, cyber terrorist activities, etc., are becoming global public nuisances, there is an utter lack of conventions and judicial cooperation mechanisms for the protection of minors’ lawful rights and interests, and attacking cybercrime, etc., infringements of individual privacy, intellectual property rights, online law-breaking and crime on a global scale occur regularly, and even national sovereignty and national security are gravely threatened.

General Secretary Xi Jinping’s important speech pointed out the problem that the present Internet governance system is unfair and unreasonable, it reflected the force of international justice, and occupied the commanding height of humankind’s morality. In handling international cyberspace affairs, a few countries have coerced the small with their size, used their strength to bully the weak, and rejected the equal participation of other subjects, attempting to consolidate a governance order advantageous to them, and upholding their cyber hegemonic position and vested interest. At the same time, they adopt double standards in terms of cyber governance and development, they criticize and intervene in the network development path that other countries have autonomously chosen, they even carry out cyber surveillance, they launch cyber attacks, instigate “colour revolutions” and support or condone cyber activities harming other countries’ regime security and national security.

General Secretary Xi Jinping’s important speech pointed out the problems that Internet development is unbalanced, and technology and security are controlled by others, reflecting the common desires of the absolute majority of countries worldwide, especially developing countries. A few Western countries use their information technology superiority, as well as their power over international Internet core infrastructure and their resource allocation to monopolize agenda-setting power, rule-making power, international discourse power, etc. There is a grave imbalance in the distribution and allocation of resources such as root servers and other global Internet infrastructure resources, the difference in Internet development capability between various countries is clear, and the digital divide tends to expand. The broad developing countries are gravely controlled by others in terms of cybersecurity and development, and find themselves in an ever less advantageous position.

General Secretary Xi Jinping’s important speech put forward a Chinese plan for global Internet governance, shared Chinese experiences and contributed Chinese wisdom, and so reflects China’s taking up of the responsibilities of a large country. After over 20 years of exploration and development, and especially since the 18th Party Congress, we have persisted in grasping development and governance with two hands, gaining successes that attracted worldwide attention. At present, there are nearly 700 million netizens, 4.23 million websites, the Internet is becoming more of a leading force for innovation driving development every day, it is profoundly changing people’s production and lives, it is powerfully driving economic and social development, and its benefits are extending to hundreds of millions of common people; [we have] launched cyberspace governance according to the law, made cyberspace cleaner every day, enabled positive energy to become stronger, continuously enhanced cybersecurity protection capacities, and marched an Internet development and governance path with Chinese characteristics. This magnificent practice fully demonstrates that this is a path of hope, a path of light, and a path of success. International society universally recognizes that Internet development and governance is an important and pressing new topic for all governments worldwide, Chinese practice, China’s path and China’s plan reflect China’s successful exploration in this new area of cyberspace, provide beneficial experiences to all countries of the world, reflect China’s responsibility and burden of a large cyber country, this is China’s contribution to the world.

General Secretary Xi Jinping’s important speech pointed out the orientation for the reform of the global Internet governance system, and depicted the desired scene, it provided an important path to follow in the future development and governance of the Internet. Persisting in the four principles of respect for cyber sovereignty, maintenance of pear and security, stimulation of openness and cooperation, and building a desirable order, as well as the five standpoints of accelerating the construction of global network infrastructure, forging online cultural exchange and sharing platforms, promoting innovation and development of the online economy, guaranteeing cybersecurity and building the Internet governance system have initiated a “Wuzhen Process” for global Internet development and governance. International society universally believes that General Secretary Xi Jinping drew up a blueprint, put forward a plan and pointed out a direction for the governance of global cyberspace, it reflected the common desires and interests of international society and especially the broad developing countries, and should become a common path to follow for international society in formulating new norms for global cyberspace, building a new order in cyberspace, and forging a community of common destiny in cyberspace.

II, Persisting in the principle of respect for cyber sovereignty is the key in the reform of the global Internet governance system

To study the spirit of General Secretary Xi Jinping’s important speech, we must first and foremost profoundly understand the important elucidation of General Secretary Xi Jinping concerning the principle of respect for cyber sovereignty. From beginning to end, the root of the sprawl of malpractice in international cyberspace governance lies in the problem of sovereignty. Sovereignty is the basic property of modern states, without sovereignty, there are no modern states. Action must change in step with affairs, the content of sovereignty must change with the time, and become incessantly enriched, the practice of sovereignty must progress in step with the times, and be incessantly innovated. Cyberspace is a new domain for modern states and a new area in global governance, the spirit of the principle of sovereign equality determined in the “UN Charter” should also adapt to cyberspace, and cyber sovereignty should be born of this.

Cyber sovereignty is rooted in modern legal theory, and is an extension of modern state sovereignty in cyberspace. The formulation of laws concerning cyberspace, the promulgation of policy, government management and administrative law enforcement, judicial jurisdiction and dispute resolution, global governance and international cooperation, all are methods to exercise cyber sovereignty. The US has brought cybersecurity into the management category of national security, and has successively promulgated a series of laws and regulations concerning cybersecurity information sharing, etc., which prominently reflect cyber sovereignty. In 2013, the US Government publicly declared that a cyber attack carried out against the United States would be considered as an act of war and would trigger military retaliation. The US has carried out cyber attacks and cyber surveillance against other countries, calling it “network freedom” and “information sharing”, and when US networks are attacked, it is seen as “initiating war”. This is the cyber sovereignty view of the United States, its nature is cyber hegemony. Concerning this sort of power play where they only want sovereignty for themselves and do not take into account the sovereignty of other contrives, or only want security for themselves and have no regard for the security of other countries, international society has expressed strong indignation, has universally called for respect for cyber sovereignty and opposition against cyber hegemony, for moving forward the reform of the global Internet governance system, and building a new order in cyberspace. This is also an objective law and a necessary requirement for the development and governance of the global Internet.

Respect for cyber sovereignty is a necessary requirement for opposing cyber hegemony. Since the Peace of Westphalia established the principle of state sovereignty in 1648, persisting in sovereignty and opposing hegemony has been an important content of practice in the international system. Now, we are no longer in an era where a few countries can gang up and are able to decide great matters of global import, global affairs increasingly require that all countries deal with them through consultation. At present, a number of activities that disregard cyber sovereignty essentially are the projection and reflection of hegemonic activities in the real world onto cyberspace, they are a new breed of cold war thinking, and have become the greatest obstacle to the reform of the global governance system. Only if there is respect for cyber sovereignty, and cyber hegemony is left behind, if there is no interference in other countries’ internal affairs, or if online acts that harm other countries national security are not committed, condoned or supported, will it be possible to move reform of the global Internet governance system towards a fairer and more reasonable direction.

Respect for cyber sovereignty is an important guarantee for maintaining peace and security. A secure, stable and flourishing cyberspace is of great importance to all countries and the world. Cybersecurity is a global challenge, there isn’t any one country that is able to stay aloof or can shut itself in an ivory tower, many countries including China are the victims of cyber terrorism, cyber surveillance, cyber attacks and cyber espionage. There should be no double standards in maintaining cybersecurity, it cannot be the case that other countries are insecure for the sake of one country’s security, or that a number of countries are insecure for the sake of the security of a number of other countries, and it can absolutely not be the case that other countries’ security is sacrificed to seek absolute security for oneself. Only by respecting cyber sovereignty, joining hands in cooperation, responding jointly, opposing cyber surveillance, cyber attacks and military competition in cyberspace, will it be possible to realistically maintain peace and security in cyberspace.

Respect for cyber sovereignty is the basic precondition for maintaining openness and cooperation. “If all under heaven mutually care for another, there will be order, if they mutually despise each other, there will be chaos. Letting the people of all countries, and especially the people of the broad developing countries, share in the development fruits of the Internet, is the basic objective of moving forward the reform of the global Internet governance system. All countries should, at the same time as pursuing their own development, vigorously move forward openness and cooperation in the Internet area, create ever more points of convergence of interests, points of growth for cooperation, and new bright sports of mutual gain. Only by respecting cyber sovereignty and renouncing the old ideas of zero-sum games and winner takes all, by persisting in new ideas of being in the same boat and helping each other, of mutual trust and mutual interest, will it be possible for all countries to mutually support each other’s advantages in cyberspace and develop together, and will it be possible to let ever more countries and people hop on the express of the information age, and to share the development fruits of the Internet.

Respect for cyber sovereignty is the firm basis for building a good online order. “A tower of nine stories stands on solid earth”. Cyber sovereignty has become an important component part of national sovereignty, without cyber sovereignty, national sovereignty is incomplete; without cyber sovereignty, the international cyberspace order will be chaotic and disordered, and the rights and interests of multiple stakeholders would be impossible to guarantee; without cyber sovereignty, the original intention and objective of the Internet to enrich humanity would be impossible to realize, and the development of the Internet would lose its significance. Only by respecting cyber sovereignty will it be possible for all countries to indigenously formulate policies and regulations, carry out governance in cyberspace in a lawful manner, and build a desirable online order. China is a firm advocate and forceful defender of cyber sovereignty, it persists in correctly handling the relationship between freedom and order, security and development, openness and autonomy in cyberspace, it has explored and marched a Socialist Internet governance path with Chinese characteristics.

On this path, we have marched full of self-confidence, and matchlessly staunch.

III, Striving to make a Chinese contribution to building a community of common destiny in cyberspace

General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out that cyberspace is a sphere of activity common to humankind, all countries should strengthen communication, broaden consensus and deepen collaboration, and jointly build a community of common destiny in cyberspace. The entire world shares in a single Internet access point. Respecting sovereignty and building a community of common destiny in cyberspace are dialectically unified, cyber sovereignty is the precondition for building a community of common destiny in cyberspace, and a community of common destiny in cyberspace is a guarantee for cyber sovereignty. Our stressing respect for cyber sovereignty is not because we want to fragment global cyberspace, but to stress that on the basis of sovereign equality, all countries, regardless of whether their Internet develops quickly or rapidly, or they are strong or weak technologically, should have equal rights to participation, rights to development and rights to governance, and these should be effectively guaranteed. Following the incessant increase in its comprehensive strength and international position, China is walking closer to the centre of the global stage every day. China first and foremost is devoting itself to running its own affairs well, to build China’s Internet well, use it well and govern it well, at the same time, we also wish to share China’s experience with the world, to come together with all countries worldwide, and to join hands in building a community of common destiny in cyberspace on the basis of mutual respect for cyber sovereignty.

[We must] broaden consensus, to create a “greatest common denominator” in cyberspace. Because all countries have different national circumstances, different historical and cultural backgrounds, and different degrees of Internet development, they have different governance models and methods, there are a number of disagreements and disputes, but the wish to strengthen governance in cyberspace is unanimous. Based on this common wish, China proposes to take “Four Principles” and “Five Standpoints” as basis, to seek common ground while accepting differences, to enhance understanding, to create a “greatest common denominator” and to achieve basic consensus: the Internet should bring welfare to the people of the world, and not harm; it should bring peace and security, and should not be a “sharp tool” to attack other countries; the stress should be on protecting the lawful rights and interests of citizens, and so it cannot become a hotbed for unlawful and criminal activities; it should be civilized and sincere, and cannot be flooded with rumours and fraud; greater attention should be paid to the needs of developing countries; positive energy should be transmitted, so that humanity’s excellent cultures are inherited and carried forward; and it should benefit the healthy growing up of minors. China is a large Internet country, with a quarter of the global population of netizens, it wishes to positively bear its international responsibilities, and build international platforms for China to interconnect and interact with the world, as well as Chinese platforms for international Internet sharing and joint governance, it wishes to further organize the World Internet Conference well, and vigorously launch multilateral and bilateral international exchange, let China march towards the world even better, and let the world understand China even better.

[We must] strengthen joint construction and promote the interconnection and interaction of cyberspace. The essence of the network is interaction, the value of information lies in interconnection. The population of developing countries is 80% of the global population, and their number of Internet users comprises 43% of the number of global users, their future development potential is huge. China will expand financial input, strengthen technological support, vigorously promote the construction of global network infrastructure, strengthen the development capacities of networks in all countries, and let ever more developing countries and people share in the opportunities that the Internet brings. China will further strengthen its network cooperation with countries along “One Belt, One Road” and take the lead in laying “circulation networks” in the “One Belt, One Road”; with the support of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the China Internet Investment Fund, the China Internet Development Fund, etc., it will deepen pragmatic collaboration with developing countries, forcefully move forward the construction of Internet infrastructure, eliminate “information barriers”, reduce the digital divide, let information flows gush forth freely, let ever more developing countries and their people grasp information, obtain knowledge and create wealth through the Internet, and lead ever happier and more beautiful lives.

[We must] seek joint governance, and promote the creation of a fair and reasonable global Internet governance system. The Internet is a common garden for humankind, international cyberspace governance should be run by everyone in consultation, bring together the wisdom of the crowd and turn it into the affair of the crowd. China will further move forward the reform of the global Internet governance system, deeply move forward the internationalization process of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), vigorously advocate that international society proceeds on the basis of mutual respect and mutual trust, persist in multilateral participation and multi-side participation, give rein to the rules of subjects such as governments, international organizations, Internet enterprises, the technological community, civil bodies, individual citizens, etc., join forces to respond to cyber attacks, cybercrime, cyber terrorism and other such grave challenges, promote the formulation of international norms for cyberspace that reflect the desires and interests of the absolute majority of countries in a more balanced manner, to jointly promote the healthy development of the Internet

[We must] seek openness and mutual gain, and stimulate the flourishing and development of the global digital economy. In the present age, the digital economy is a new force springing up, and has already become a most powerful engine driving economic development. China is currently forcefully moving forward the construction of a “Broadband China” and a “Digital China”, as well as the “Internet Plus” action plan, the torrential development of the Chinese Internet has provided broad market space for enterprises and entrepreneurs from all countries. China’s great open gates will never be shut, the policies on the use of foreign capital will never change, its protection of the lawful rights and interests of foreign investors and businesses will not change, and its orientation of providing ever better services to enterprises from all countries who come to China to invest and set up shop. As long as they abide by China’s laws, and do not harm China’s national interests and the interests of consumers, we warmly welcome foreign Internet and telecommunications enterprises and entrepreneurs to come to China to develop. China will, through developing cross-border e-commerce and building information industry demonstration zones, promote the broad and deep development of international collaboration in the digital economy, and jointly grow the development cake.

[We must] collaborate and share, and let the development fruits of the Internet be enjoyed by all of humankind. Sharing is the natural property of the Internet, sharing opportunity and sharing fruits is the general trend. We welcome all countries to hop on the “tailwind car” of China’s Internet development, and further strengthen international exchange and collaboration, to jointly promote research, development and application of new Internet technologies, and jointly participate in the formulation of important technological standards, so as to realize common development. China will come together with all countries, and strive to build all kinds of online exchange and sharing platforms, to let the people of all countries understand China’s excellent culture even better, to let the Chinese people learn even better from the world’s outstanding civilizational achievements, to jointly promote the flourishing and development of online culture, and stimulate the progress of human civilization.

The great wave tempestuously reveals its true colour, it is good sailing with the right wind and full canvas. During the “13th Five-year Plan” period, we will deeply study the strategic thought of General Secretary Xi Jinping concerning a strong network country, earnestly implement the “Four Principles” and “Five Standpoints”, unwaveringly march the path of Socialist Internet governance with Chinese characteristics, come together with all countries to jointly move forward the reform of the global Internet governance system, build a community of common destiny in cyberspace, and let the development fruits of the Internet come to 1.3 billion Chinese people, and enrich humanity.

(The author is a vice-director of the Central Propaganda Department, the Director of the Office of the Central Leading Group for Cybersecurity and Informatization, and the Director of the Cyberspace Administration of China)

 

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