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World Internet Conference 2015

China to strive for greater clout on the internet through global governance system

Beijing to push for more control in cyberspace

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 December, 2015, 12:19am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 December, 2015, 12:19am

As an emerging internet power, China will take on bigger responsibilities and push for new rules in the cybersphere, the mainland’s internet tsar said at the close of the World Internet Conference on Friday.

In his closing speech at the event in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, Lu Wei, head of the Cyberspace Administration of China, said Beijing would promote the building of internet infrastructure, step up innovation in the internet economy, and create a peaceful, secure, open and cooperative cyberspace.

Lu also repeated Chinese President Xi Jinping’s call at the opening of the conference for a global internet governance system.

Xi had said “existing rules governing cyberspace hardly reflect the desires and interests of the majority of countries”.

Internet sovereignty – the right for a state to choose its development path, extent of regulation and online policies – should be respected, Xi said, adding that regulation was necessary to maintain order on the internet.

China boasts the biggest number of internet users – 668 million people. It also has one of the world’s harshest internet censorship systems, blocking many social media and news sites.

Jack Ma Yun, founder of internet giant Alibaba Group, echoed Xi’s views on online regulation.

“I believe it will be a challenge to mankind if we do not apply systematic governance to the development of the internet,” Ma said.

The mainland’s robust online industry and the emergence of world-class internet players like Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent showed that regulation had not stifled innovation and would not hurt development, he said.

Alibaba recently announced plans to buy the South China Morning Post and all other media assets owned by the SCMP Group.

“There is no international protocol on global cyberspace governance. China aims to create one and it depends on whether major players such as the United States ... are keen to join hands,” said Renmin University international relations professor Shi Yinhong.

“It will be a long process ... to having countries participate and work out a new protocol. China clearly wants to play a very important role in the process.”

China e-Business Research Centre director Cao Lei said Beijing hoped to join hands with other developing countries to gain greater control in cyberspace.

“The internet is now closely related to the economy, and e-commerce to foreign trade,” Cao said. “The internet ... can interweave well with other industries. It has become a new opportunity for [China’s] economic restructuring.”

China has launched an “Internet Plus” action plan to apply new technology to traditional sectors. The internet economy accounted for 7 per cent of GDP last year.