China seeks a balanced Internet strategy

Updated: 2015-12-10 18:13

By Xiao Xin(

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After its economic liberalization, started more than thirty years ago, China is coming to a crossroads: How to become a more prosperous and competitive power in the Internet era.

China seeks a balanced Internet strategy

A night view of the opera house in Wuzhen township, host of the World Internet Conference, in Tongxiang city, Zhejiang province, on Dec 7, 2015. [Photo/Xinhua] 

With its goals of building a prosperous society by the end of the decade and a modern and civilized country by the middle of this century, China is not only facing the challenge of maintaining sustainable growth. It also needs to cope with the challenges of social governance and becoming a more constructive player in the international community.

Having churned out world-class tech companies in China, the Internet has become a promising industry in the world's second-largest economy, contributing to its economic growth and prosperity and providing for the increasing public demand.

However, the fast and widespread application of Internet technology has also brought serious challenges for social management and, due to divided philosophies on the regulation of the Internet industry, served as an apple of discord between China and other countries.

President Xi Jinping is scheduled to participate in the second World Internet Conference next week in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province. Although it is not yet revealed how he will elaborate on his views on the Internet, based on his past remarks, it is clear that the Chinese leadership embraces the global tide of the Internet-based economy while attaching importance to national cyberspace security.

At a meeting of the central Internet security and informatization leading group in 2014, Xi said that China's strategy to build itself into a major Internet power is in line with its goal of becoming a prosperous society and will benefit its 1.3 billion people. "We must have our own technologies, provide comprehensive information services, enrich online culture and establish sound infrastructure to build a strong information economy," he said, urging the country to strengthen independent innovation of core technology development.

Meanwhile, Xi remains sober-minded and never underestimates the serious problem China faces with cyber attacks.

"Without cyberspace security, there is no national security," he warned at the meeting.

The President's stance is best summed up in a written interview by the Wall Street Journal in September. In the interview, Xi stressed that the Internet is one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century, having turned the world into a global village and profoundly changed the way people live and work. But he also said that although highly global, this "new frontier" is by no means a "land beyond law". Rule of law also applies to the Internet, with the need to safeguard a country's sovereignty, security and development interests, he said.

Such a balanced stance is in line with China's development stage and the fast evolution of global security.

Although China has become the world's second largest economy, many economists warn that it faces the risk of falling into the "middle income trap", meaning if it cannot achieve sustainable, high-rate growth, it could suffer serious setbacks.

Therefore, it is imperative that China upgrade its economic structure, improve the competitiveness of its core industries, increase the role of services and restructure its economy to make it more consumption- and innovation-driven. The Internet plays an irreplaceable role in these tasks.

However, because China is not yet mature in making full use of the Internet, some government agencies, public institutions, research institutes and commercial enterprises have fallen victim to many cyber attacks from abroad.

In other words, the Internet has posed a serious challenge to China's sovereignty, security and development interests.

Addressing the Brazilian National Congress last July, Xi said, "All countries have the right to safeguard their information security, and the international community should build a multilateral, democratic and transparent international Internet governance system based on the principle of mutual respect and mutual trust."

Moreover, cyberspace also serves as a hotbed for various crimes, most notably terrorism. Some terrorist organizations have used the Internet to spread their extremist views and recruit members, highlighting the need to manage the Internet more strictly throughout the world.

It is high time the international community, especially the major Internet powers, became aware of the issue, cast aside ideological differences and joined hands to establish a more constructive order in cyberspace.