Foreign firms must respect China’s laws or risk failure on the mainland, US tech experts told

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 December, 2014, 1:38pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 December, 2014, 4:23pm

Foreign companies must respect China’s rules and regulations in order to thrive in its market or they risk isolating themselves and falling behind, the mainland’s internet tsar has told a group of US officials and tech experts.

“Foreign companies that have won the market, users and profits in China all respect China’s market landscape and laws and regulations without exception. US firms developing in China have shown us that if you choose to respect, you can grasp the opportunities,” Lu Wei, head of the Cyberspace Administration, said in his speech at the China-US Internet Industry Forum in Washington on Tuesday.

“If you choose to be contrary, you will wander astray and isolate yourself, and in the end be abandoned by the market.”

China is a major victim of cyberattacks ... The Chinese government has always been against any form of cyberattacks
Lu Wei, head of the Cyberspace Administration

The forum – in its seventh year and co-hosted by the Microsoft Corporation and the Internet Society of China – brings together more than 150 government officials, industry leaders and academics from both countries to discuss the realities and prospects of cooperation on cyber issues, Xinhua reported.

“Great countries bear huge responsibilities … Big countries with a sense of responsibility should not contain other countries’ development to foster its own, or violate other countries’ safety to protect themselves,” Lu said.

“China is a major victim of cyberattacks, so we understand how important cybersafety is. The Chinese government has always been against any form of cyberattacks.”

The United States has accused China of encouraging hackers to steal corporate secrets, allegations that Beijing has denied, causing tension between the two states. In May, the US charged five Chinese military officers with hacking the computer systems of American firms, prompting China to shut down a bilateral working group on cybersecurity.

Former US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden has said the US National Security Agency hacked into official network infrastructure at universities in China and Hong Kong. China, repeatedly accused by the US of hacking, has used Snowden’s allegations to counter Washington’s accusations.

“On this issue, China and the US should increase dialogue and build mutual trust to crack down on crime, attacks and the invasion of privacy on the internet, so as to protect intellectual property together and harshly combat cyber terrorism,” Lu said.

Catherine Novelli, US undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, said the two states should and are cooperating because they share common interests on cyberissues, Xinhua reported.

Big countries with a sense of responsibility should not ... violate other countries’ safety to protect themselves
Lu Wei

Technology companies the world over are keen to tap into China’s burgeoning market of internet users. Official data shows that as of July, China had 632 million internet users, with the figure expected to rise to 850 million by next year.

But the country also has the world’s most sophisticated online censorship system, which blocks many social media services – including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and Google – as well as many rights groups sites and some foreign media agencies.

Lu’s office, founded in 2011 under the State Council Information Office, was restructured and given greater powers this year.

The changes came after the Communist Party set up a new panel overseeing internet security and information technology development, led by President Xi Jinping, in February.

The office is now the most important governing organisation overseeing the web in China, showing the high priority the country’s leadership has placed on the internet.