Journal

A New Domain for the Dream of Peace and Development

Wang Jun observer of international issues
Since its birth in the 1970s, the Internet has experienced rapid growth, changing the way we work and live. In the meantime, the lurking perils in cyber security and emerging challenges of cyber security have become part of everyday conversation. What kind of cyberspace we need to build to avoid disorder and the law of the jungle? What choices China will make as a big Internet user? These are questions that have attracted much attention.
 
China's cyber-related foreign policy is rooted in its independent foreign policy of peace set in the early days of New China, and has developed with the advancement of information technology. It aims at fostering a peaceful, secure, open and cooperative cyberspace. The principles of peace, sovereignty, co-governance and shared benefits lie at the heart of China's proposals and visions for global governance of cyberspace. Below is a further elaboration of these principles. 
 
Cyberspace should be a domain of peace. In the interconnected world of cyberspace, countries are bound together in a community of shared future by their intertwined interests. This years marks the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII, a chilling and costly reminder of our historical responsibility to uphold peace and oppose war. Mankind do not need a new battleground, and cyberspace certainly should not be made one. In this new domain, all countries should remain true to the purposes and principles for peace enshrined in the UN Charter, reject the zero-sum and Cold War mentality, and foster a new security concept featuring mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and coordination. All countries should achieve one's own security on the basis of fully respecting the security of others and by pursuing common security and prevent the Internet from being militarized or used for arms race.
 
Cyberspace should be a domain where national sovereignty is guaranteed. The spread of information may go across borders, yet the principle of sovereignty remains relevant in the cyberspace. The development of the Internet does not change the basic norms of international relations with the UN Charter as the core, and the principle of national sovereignty should apply as readily in cyberspace as anywhere. As President Xi Jinping noted in his address at the National Congress of Brazil in 2014, in the information world, no country's sovereign rights and interests can be violated, no double-standard shall be applied, and every country should have the right to defend its information security. The principle of sovereignty should be applied in cyberspace in the following ways: countries have jurisdiction over the infrastructure and activities of information and communications within its territory; governments have the right to formulate public policies on the Internet in light of their national conditions; and no country should use the Internet to interfere in the internal affairs or to undermine the interests of other countries. To stress this principle in cyberspace helps clarify the responsibilities and rights of government in exercising law-based governance of cyberspace. It also enables countries to build a platform for constructive interactions among governments, businesses and social groups, and a healthy environment for the development of information technology and international exchange and cooperation.
 
Cyberspace should be a domain jointly built and governed by all countries. Cyberspace is different from conventional spaces in many ways. It is virtual, borderless, fluid, anonymous and the origin of cyber attacks is elusive. Here, the interests of different countries are more closely integrated than in any other domains. Any attempt to seek one's own good in disregard of others' will enmesh itself in a web of its own spinning and trap itself on a lone information islet. The right path should be a cyberspace built and governed by all. Countries, big or small, strong or weak, rich or poor, should all participate in developing order and rules in cyberspace as equals, jointly explore a widely acceptable code of conduct in cyberspace, and work for a fair and reasonable global Internet governance system. The Internet has increasing influence on the development and livelihood of all countries as well as international security. To make sure that the Internet is built and governed by all, we must work for a new global Internet governance system that is multilateral, democratic and transparent, and ensure the fair distribution and management of basic Internet resources.
 
Cyberspace should be a domain of shared benefits for all countries. Cyberspace provides strong impetus for world economic growth and attaining the UN MDGs, and it will continue to play an important role in global development agenda. At the same time, security can only be improved with stronger IT capabilities of all countries. To make the Internet bring shared benefits to all countries and regions holds the master key to the complex issue of cyber security. A single thread cannot be spun into a cord, and no one can clap with only one hand. The international community should champion win-win cooperation, and encourage bilateral, regional and international development cooperation. In particular, more assistance should be given to developing countries, so as to help them overcome the digital divide, promote wider access to the Internet, and ensure that all people will benefit from the opportunities of the development of the Internet and share in its fruit. By so doing, we could achieve the shared commitment to building a people-centric, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society set out by the World Summit on Information Society.
 
II
A secure, stable and prosperous cyberspace is crucial to world peace and development. As Internet industry takes up a greater share of national economies, it is a pressing task to enhance global governance capacity on cyberspace. This requires the concerted efforts of the international community.
 
China is a big Internet user and important force in global cyberspace governance. According to the proposal on China's 13th five-year plan for national economic and social development, China will actively participate in international rule-making in the cyberspace and other new domains. China takes part in global cyberspace governance both as a developing country and a major emerging country. It has played a positive role and put forward a number of its own proposals.
 
First, China advocates dialogue and cooperation in cyberspace. Given the frequent incidents in cyberspace, all parties should engage in dialogue in a constructive manner on the basis of mutual respect and trust, and address differences through cooperation. On cyber issues, it is not advisable to use double standards, protecting one's own interests while subjecting other countries to the so-called rules. One must not adopt the practice of refusing to reflect upon one's own actions that undermine the sovereignty and privacy of other countries and their peoples, while imposing unjustified accusations against others, as it is by no means helpful for the settlement of problems.
 
Second, China works actively to formulate widely acceptable international norms. What is urgent is to establish as soon as possible a framework of international rules to regulate the behavior of various parties. This is a crucial step to set cyberspace in good order, enhance the confidence of all parties and achieve common security. While exploring how existing international law may be applied in cyberspace, we should actively develop new international norms adaptable to the cyberspace, including a code of conduct for responsible state behavior. We may adopt a gradual approach by addressing the easier questions first, before moving on to more difficult ones.
 
Third, China supports strengthening the important role of the UN in global cyberspace governance to ensure broad participation by all parties. In recent years, the UN has done a lot of work under the three pillars of security, development and human rights. Good progress has been made by the Group of Governmental Experts on the Issue of Information Security, the Security Council's counter cyber terrorism discussions, the World Summit on Information Society, the Internet Governance Forum, and the inter-governmental expert group on cybercrime. As the most authoritative and influential international organization, the UN serves as a fair platform for all countries to participate in global cyberspace governance. Past experience has proven the effectiveness of the UN.
 
Today, with reemerging terrorist threats, it is a most pressing and important task for the international community to step up counter terrorism efforts in cyberspace. Making use of the Internet, terrorist groups disseminate violent and extreme ideology, incite and organize terrorist activities, recruit new members, seek funding, and even directly launch terrorist attacks. All these pose a grave threat to the security and stability of all countries, and to peace of our world. No country can be an "outsider" and immune from terrorist activities. Cyber terrorism is highly covert with a wide attack range, making it hard to prevent. This presents new challenges to the counter terrorism efforts of all countries. The endeavor of a single country is hardly enough to effectively tackle cyber terrorism. Only with the concerted efforts of all countries can we remove the dark cloud of terrorism and allow the light of civilization and peace to prevail. Resolutions 2178 and 2129 adopted by the UN Security Council expressed serious concern over the danger of cyber terrorism and outlined responses needed, a testament to global consensus on boosting counter terrorism cooperation. China encourages the international community to move further on that basis. Efforts should be made to identify specific cooperation measures, explore a code of conduct and steps to jointly fight against cyber terrorism, and build global consensus on fighting cybercrime and cyber terrorism. This will provide a basis for law enforcement cooperation between countries.
 
III
The 21st century is defined by the Internet and information technologies. As a big country with 618 million Internet users, China attaches great importance to cyber security and IT application, and has worked continuously to better maintain cyber security. A central leading group on cyber security and informatization was set up to provide over-arching leadership and coordinate efforts for cyber security. At the first meeting of the group, President Xi Jinping set the ambitious goal of building a country with strong cyber capabilities. This is an important part of the Chinese Dream, as President Xi noted, one about peace, happiness and contribution to the world.
 
China has always worked hard to develop, maintain and contribute to the cyberspace. It has actively engaged in an all-round cyber diplomacy in the global endeavor to strengthen governance on cyberspace. China, Russia and other members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization submitted an International Code of Conduct for Information Security to the UN General Assembly in 2011 and an updated draft in January this year. It is the first international document with comprehensive and systematic proposals on international rules in cyberspace. It aims to make clear the rights and responsibilities of countries in cyberspace, encourage responsible behavior and ensure the Internet is used to the benefit of mankind. This is China's contribution of public security goods to promote sound order and healthy development of cyberspace. This code of conduct includes some basic principles governing cyberspace: upholding the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and the principles of peace and sovereignty; opposing cyber warfare or using cyberspace to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries; respecting basic human rights, freedoms, and equal rights enjoyed by the people both online and offline; building a fair and reasonable Internet governance system; strengthening international cooperation against cyber terrorism and cybercrime, and joint efforts against cyber security threats; and encouraging cyber capacity building and exchanges to help developing countries overcome the digital divide. This document has been well received and supported by many countries, developing ones in particular, and offers a good basis for discussing international rules governing cyberspace under the UN framework.
 
Over the years, China has actively supported and participated in cyber security processes under the UN framework. China has been deeply involved in the work of every Group of Governmental Experts on the Issue of Information Security, and made important contribution to the three reports and sustainable progress in the work of the Group. China has also taken part in the World Summit on Information Society, the Internet Governance Forum, the International Telecommunication Union, and the UN intergovernmental expert group on combating cybercrime, helping to build international consensus, explore specific steps and contribute ideas to the relevant endeavors.
 
China has taken concrete actions to uphold cyber security, and has carried out cyber diplomacy by hosting major events. Last year, China held the inaugural World Internet Conference (Wuzhen Summit), an annual event aimed at building international consensus and upgrading cooperation. It has become the biggest, highest-level and most influential cyber-related international conference held in China, attracting worldwide attention. China co-hosted with the UN Regional Center for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific international symposium on cyber affairs and information security, held cyber security sub-forum under the Boao Forum for Asia for two consecutive years, and twice co-sponsored with Malaysia a work shop on cyber security and capacity building under the ASEAN Region Forum. Starting from 2014, China held China-ASEAN Cyberspace Forum every year to advance regional process for cyber security. In addition, China has held a seminar on fighting terrorism under the Global Counter Terrorism Forum to build consensus on combating cyber terrorism.
 
The Internet is mankind's greatest invention in the 20th century. It embraces everything and covers every corner of social and economic activities. Quiet but powerful, it brings daily changes to the global village and no "villager" stands untouched by its influence. As a fast growing member of the global community, China is committed to working with all other countries to shape and steer the development of cyber space in a spirit of mutual respect, mutual trust and win-win cooperation, so as to provide inexhaustible impetus to the progress of mankind and make cyberspace a domain for the dream of peace and development. 
 
 
Wang Jun is an observer of international issues.

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