Journal

Make Efforts for the Construction of International Cyber Space Rules and Contribute to the Ever-changing Internet Governance

Li Yuxiao 外交部非洲司司长
The Board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) at its 55th meeting in Morocco in March 2016 adopted a package of proposals put forward by the Internet community, including a proposal by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) Stewardship Transition Coordination Group (ICG) on the transition of stewardship of certain technical functions, and one by the Cross Community Working Group on Enhancing ICANN Accountability (CCWG-Accountability) on enhancing ICANN's accountability, both of which received much attention worldwide over the past two years. The package was submitted to the U.S. National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NTIA) on 10 March for its review. If the plan was approved, transition of the IANA stewardship is expected to be completed this September, which will have a significant impact on global Internet governance. In recent years, China has made great efforts in advancing reform in global Internet governance and was acknowledged for its participation in global Internet governance. China's propositions on international cyber space governance are taking shape.
I. China's Propositions on International Cyber Space Governance
 
Over the years, China has been a beneficiary of Internet development. It has the world's most dynamic Internet market. Meanwhile, it is also a victim of Internet abuse and cyber security challenges. By participating in global Internet governance, China ultimately aims to foster a favorable neighboring and international environment, advance the healthy, reasonable and orderly development of the Internet in China and beyond and protect national interests and public security. Over the past two years, President Xi Jinping has articulated China's commitment in applying, peacefully using, developing, protecting and regulating the Internet and China's sincerity in taking part in global Internet governance.
In his speech at the National Congress of Brazil on 16 July 2014, President Xi Jinping pointed out that despite the global nature of the Internet, a country's sovereignty, rights and interests in the information sphere brook no infringement. No matter how advanced Internet technology may grow, it cannot be used to violate other countries' information sovereignty. No double standards should be allowed in the information sphere. We cannot just have the security of one or some countries while leaving the rest insecure, still less should one seek the so-called absolute security of itself at the expense of the security of others. The international community must enhance effective cooperation on the basis of mutual respect and trust and work together to foster a peaceful, secure, open and cooperative cyberspace and put in place a multilateral, democratic and transparent global Internet governance system.
 
While attending the China-U.S. Internet Industry Forum on 23 September 2015, President Xi Jinping pointed out that China advocates a peaceful, secure, open and cooperative cyberspace, and maintains that all countries should formulate Internet-related public policies in line with their respective national realities. He also said that China places high premium on the role of the Internet in boosting economic development, and that China is implementing the "Internet Plus" strategy to encourage more industries to fully leverage the Internet in their development.
At the second World Internet Conference on 16 December 2015, President Xi Jinping stressed that countries need to follow the principles of respecting cyber sovereignty, maintaining peace and security, promoting openness and cooperation and cultivating good order. To that end, he put forward five proposals: first, speed up the building of global Internet infrastructure and promote inter-connectivity; second, build an online platform for cultural exchange and mutual learning; third, promote innovative development of cyber economy for common prosperity; fourth, maintain cyber security and promote orderly development; fifth, build an Internet governance system to promote equity and justice.
 
China and the US are very important stakeholders in the international cyberspace governance and should play an essential role. However, this does not mean that China seeks a “bipolar” world in cyberspace. By December 2015, there were 3.366 billion internet users worldwide, among which China and the US accounted for 28.22% (China: 670 million and the US: 280 million). These two countries are also home to the world’s top ten internet companies with the highest market value. Therefore, China and the US are entitled to have their say in global internet governance. Yet, they are not the only contributors to the prosperity of international cyberspace. As the internet is varied and diversified, its governance should also involve multiple parties. In his visit to the US in September 2015, President Xi Jinping remarked that China stood ready to work with the US and other members of the international community to push for the formulation of international cyberspace rules and build peaceful, secure and transparent cyberspace. President Xi’s remarks not only highlight the importance of the international cyberspace rules, but also reflect China’s pursuit of peaceful development of cyberspace and its objection to hegemony in cyberspace.
 
II. Evolving landscape of international cyberspace governance
 
The US, the EU and other developed countries are adjusting their bilateral or multilateral governance rules. Due to the Prism scandal in 2013, the data-sharing agreement between the US and the EU (i.e. the Safe Harbor Agreement) that has been effective for 15 years was challenged by the European Court of Justice in October 2015. The court pronounced that if the data security watchdogs of EU member states deemed that the companies failed to protect residents’ data, they had the right to restrict data-sharing activities of these companies. On 29 February 2016, the US and the EU signed the US-EU Safe Harbor Framework, a new framework agreement on privacy protection in the transmission of personal data between companies from both sides. Data protection has always been a core issue in the EU’s cyberspace governance. This new agreement shows that both sides have made progress in formulating cyberspace rules through bilateral consultation, which is bound to become a new example for the world.
Emerging countries are also planning ahead, so that they will play a greater role in international cyberspace governance. For example, in 2014, Brazil put forward the NetMundial Initiative together with the World Economic Forum, ICANN and other parties, proclaiming their permanent seats on the Coordination Council and selecting members global wide. And India, with the second largest number of internet users in Asia (375 million), initiated an institution with Brazil and South Africa which deals with cyberspace governance within the framework of the UN, and has submitted a proposal for a United Nations Committee for Internet-Related Policies (CIRP) to the UN.
 
The landscape of international cyberspace governance is evolving toward multi-polarity, which increases the possibility of establishing international governance rules through bilateral consultation. Previously, China seldom participated in international cyberspace governance, but this situation is changing as China hosts the World Internet Conference. This conference is considered by foreign experts to be one of the three major conferences on international cyberspace governance (the other two being the World Summit of Information Society and the Internet Governance Forum), which represents broad prospects for dialogue between China and western countries and great feasibility of formulating cyberspace governance rules through bilateral dialogue between China and Europe, China and the US or even Asia and Europe.
    
III. The situation of international cyberspace governance has become increasingly complicated.
 
The United States’ global Internet stewardship is affected by multiple factors and is facing challenges from various parties, but the power distribution in Internet management has not been effectively resolved yet. The United States has made important contributions to the spread and development of the Internet and its transitioning of its global stewardship of the Internet has also been welcomed by all parties in the world. But by now, the proposal for stewardship transition has not been finally approved and no consensus has been reached on a complete set of sound mechanisms for global Internet governance. One can imagine the complexity of the underlying situation of global cyber governance. At the same time, ICANN, the key body for internet governance, is conducting reform. Whether the recommendation of strengthening ICANN’s accountability approved at the ICANN 55 Meeting would become the basic solution to the issue remains a concern. Even if the current reform is brought to a stop for this year, the exploration afterwards about the management of ICANN and Internet governance should still be a focus of attention. 
 
The cyber security environment has worsened. Trojan botnet, phishing and other non-traditional cyber security threats are going up while Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS), Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) and other new forms of cyber attacks are on the rise. Meanwhile, cyber infrastructure is subject to global high-risk bugs, such as Heartbleed and Bash.  
 
The mutual trust among major countries on the cyber issue has not yet reached the level expected by various parties. As the two key Internet countries in the world, China and the United States are long in a state of distrust on the issue of the Internet. The United States has over the years accused China of engaging in cyber espionage and cyber attacks. That is not good for the international community and the development of the Internet. The “PRISM incident” has even directly aggravated the distrust among countries in terms of cyber security. How to rebuild relations of mutual trust will be key to the forming of international rules for Internet governance. 
 
The fragmentation of the cyberspace has also further complicated governance. Cyberspace is no longer limited to the Internet in the traditional sense, as the Internet of Things, industrial control networks, telecommunications networks, and broadcasting and TV networks are also important parts of the Internet. Those networks are connected to the Internet and at the same time have their own sets of systems, structures and special issues, such as the security of industrial systems and the security of RFID. Moreover, the domain name system has played an important role in the development of the Internet, but it also comes under criticism now. With the continuing ICANN reform, its future impact is a subject of much expectation from all parties too. 
    
IV. A multi-party communication and consultation mechanism shall be formed to jointly create international rules for cyberspace.
 
The system of global cyber governance rules should be developed on the basis of full multi-party communication and consultation. In the face of the realistic and severe issues, such as cyber crime, cyber terrorism, misuse of the Internet and cyber attacks, which have emerged in the fragmented cyberspace, for the sake of upholding their national interests and the security of their citizens, it is imperative and urgent that all countries should work for a complete system of international cyberspace rules for mutual trust, mutual assistance and common development so as to effectively resolve the issues. The establishment of the set of rules should be founded on full communication and consultation among various parties instead of one country or several countries imposing their wills on others. In the meantime, we should realize that the trend toward a multi-polar global Internet governance pattern is inevitable. And therefore, while working hard to promote the establishment of the global Internet governance system, we should also value the importance of bilateral or multilateral consultations in the formulation of international rules for Internet governance. 
 
China and the United States should continuously build mutual trust and jointly play a continued, important role in creating the multilateral, democratic and transparent international cyberspace rules. With regard to issue of global Internet governance, all countries, China and the United States in particular, should continue to conduct dialogue on the basis of mutual trust and minimize the unnecessary risks and losses brought by uncertainties. During his visit to the US, President Xi Jinping already reached some consensus with President Obama on the cyberspace issue, thus making important contributions to enhancing China-US mutual trust. Even more true, the diversified international multi-stakeholder communication and dialogue platforms represented by the World Internet Conference should have an important part to play in these areas.     
 
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Li Yuxiao is Secretary General of China Association of Cyberspace Security. 
 
 

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