| (LI SHIGONG)
Against the backdrop of growing Internet penetration, great importance has been bestowed on the topic of Internet governance in recent years. Following the Second World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, east China's Zhejiang Province, in December 2015, experts shared their views on Internet sovereignty and cyberspace governance in Chinese media. Excerpts of their views are as follows:
Liu Shaohua (a professor with Hunan University Law School writing in People's Daily ): President Xi Jinping urged the fostering of "a peaceful, secure, open and cooperative cyberspace" and the building of "a multilateral, democratic and transparent global Internet governance system" during the Second World Internet Conference.
As a country with the largest number of Internet users in the world, China should increase its participation in the formulation of global regulations governing the Internet, and have a bigger say in global cyberspace governance.
At present, there are no widely recognized international Internet regulations. Although some rules have been formed under the leadership of Western countries, they can hardly reflect the aspirations and interests of developing countries. China should push forward the formation of legally binding Internet governance rules through the concerted efforts of the international community on the basis of mutual respect, mutual trust, equal negotiation and fairness.
China should advocate the principle of Internet sovereignty and encourage other countries to collaborate with each other in order to write the rules for global online activities. It should also actively participate in various forms of international Internet cooperation. The World Internet Conference hosted by China represents the country's willingness to shoulder the responsibilities of a major player in drawing up governance rules for the Internet.
Meanwhile, qualified personnel and sophisticated technologies are crucial for China to increase its say in global cyberspace governance. On the one hand, China should cultivate and draw in more Internet scientists and engineers. On the other hand, it should encourage innovation in cutting-edge Internet technologies and strengthen Internet infrastructure construction.
Zhi Zhenfeng (an associate research fellow with the Institute of Law of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences writing in Guangming Daily ): The Internet has opened up new "territory" for national governance and sovereignty. However, this new area is not lawless but should be governed by law in order to safeguard national sovereignty, security and interests.
Without sound legislation and strict management, cyberspace may become a hotbed for criminal activities. Illicit rumors, pornography and fraud may pervade the Internet, thereby harming the social order.
The "digital divide," defined as a gap between peoples and regions with access to modern information and communication technologies (ICTs) and those without, has also caused contention. The divide has enabled countries with advanced information technologies to carry out cross-border criminal activities online, including hacking and surveillance.
The Internet is a double-edged sword. If it is used properly, it will bring innumerable benefits, but without necessary regulations in place, it could cause endless harm.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal in September 2015, President Xi said, "There is no absolute freedom in either the physical world or cyberspace. Freedom and order must be upheld side by side. Freedom is the purpose of order, and order the guarantee of freedom."
Moreover, Internet sovereignty has been acknowledged by the UN. State sovereignty and international norms and principles that flow from sovereignty apply to state conduct of activities related to ICTs, according to a 2013 report from a UN-commissioned group of experts on information security. Those rights also apply to nations' jurisdiction over ICT infrastructure within their territory. This stipulation has recognized a state's right to Internet sovereignty.
As international cooperation regarding the Internet increases, China's concept of Internet sovereignty will receive wider recognition by the international community and become the foundation for global Internet governance.
Zhang Jiadong (a researcher with the Institute of International Studies of Fudan University writing in Guangming Daily ): Cybersecurity has become an indispensable component of national and international security. Therefore, the governance of cyberspace requires the concerted efforts of the entire international community. The current Internet order, influenced in large part by a few Western powers, should instead be underpinned by a multilaterally balanced structure. Also, the role of the Internet in fostering international communication and understanding should be made the most of.
Unrestricted freedom was once an important feature of cyberspace, and the Internet's inherent anarchy used to be a big draw for some of its users. However, as the Internet matures, various parties such as states, enterprises and other players have all attempted to exert their influence on the virtual frontier.
However, it should be noted that sovereign states have a central role in governing the Internet. The Internet is not intrinsically free and equal, and has now developed its own powerful influence on people and states. Therefore, there must be a strong and authoritative force to govern it. Only nations have the ability to effectively manage the Internet. Countries can regulate Internet activities within their jurisdiction and can also govern activities outside of their sovereignty through the aid of international organizations. The Internet cannot escape those restrictions, given that it depends on physical servers and computers to exist. Meanwhile, Internet users have their own nationalities and therefore cannot avoid a state's jurisdiction.
The participation and leadership of states are essential to avoid conflicts and chaos on the Internet. However, Internet governance cannot be realized by relying on a single country. The international community should uphold a common cybersecurity concept and clarify the rights and obligations of different countries. Moreover, countries should protect cyber-privacy and freedom while cracking down on cybercrimes such as terrorist activities and hacking.
Wu Danhong (an associate professor with the China University of Political Science and Law writing on www.huanqiu.com): Since 2013 when Edward Snowden revealed the U.S. surveillance program PRISM, great importance has been attached to cybersecurity, with Internet sovereignty becoming a hotly debated issue around the world. Cybersecurity should complement the traditional security concept.
The PRISM incident has reminded us of the potential threats to national security, social stability and personal privacy posed by a nation's handling of Internet data across borders. Therefore, countries should adopt a localized data strategy. There is legislation in certain countries which restricts data from leaving the border, evaluates the safety of data transmission, requires data centers to be established within their jurisdiction, and imposes taxes on data leaving the country. However, China's legislation lags far behind in that regard.
Nonetheless, progress has been made in legislation regarding online activities in recent years. For instance, the new national security law passed in 2015 proposed to build a system guaranteeing online information security for the first time. It vowed to strengthen the management of the Internet and prevent, stop and punish criminal activities such as hacking, theft of secrets and the spread of harmful online information in an attempt to safeguard Internet sovereignty, national security and development interests.
Internet sovereignty is an extension and reflection of national sovereignty in cyberspace. China has jurisdiction over the Internet within its border and has the right to govern its Internet by law.
The Chinese law prohibits the spread of information igniting the subversion of the government, endangering national unity, and harming national interests. The law also bars the instigation of hatred among different ethnic groups as well as attempts to jeopardize ethnic unity and endorse evil cults, pornography, violence and terrorism. Therefore, citizens should be aware of the limits of their freedom of speech online.
Copyedited by Bryan Michael Galvan
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