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China Voice: Why does cyber-sovereignty matter?

2015-12-16Source: Xinhua   

BEIJING, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) -- Over two decades after the world's most populous country gained access to the Internet, China has been fundamentally and irreversibly changed, but not in the way some Western critics expected.

Instead of bringing collapse as some predicted, the Internet in China is becoming more commercially robust and innovative despite regulation and oversight.

The achievements partly rely on China's constant resolution to uphold cyber-sovereignty - an individual country's right to choose its own Internet regulation model - which biased Western critics decry as negating the open nature of the Internet.

Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed the importance of cyber-sovereignty during his address to the Second World Internet Conference in Zhejiang province on Wednesday

China's faith that the Internet should be subject to national laws has been justified by the fact that the country, home to 670 million Internet users, is transforming the Internet landscape with its success story.

Speaking to an audience including prime ministers and business executives, Xi, who also heads China's central Internet security and informatization leading group, reiterated that the new frontier of the Internet, though highly global, "is by no means a land beyond law."

Cyber-sovereignty dictates that no surveillance or hacking against any sovereign nation should be tolerated in cyberspace.

In an era where the Internet is intertwined in all aspects of society, Cyber-sovereignty is critical to national sovereignty. The threat of cyber attacks pose a fresh challenge to the security of a nation.

After the out of the U.S National Security Agency's PRISM program, more countries have woken up to the fact that "absolute Internet freedom" touted by the U.S. will only end up as "absolute security" in Washington and "absolute insecurity" for the rest.

Sovereign equality, one of the basic norms in contemporary international relations enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, should also be applicable to cyberspace.

Cyber-sovereignty is also key to the reform of the global Internet governance system where existing rules "hardly reflect the desires and interests of a majority of countries."

With its distinct competitive edges in information technology, the U.S. has turned its tenet of "unilateral globalism" into the ugly "global unilateralism" to build a cyberspace governance system that is far from being fair and just.

That's why Xi called for a reform of international cyberspace governance to one that features a multilateral approach with multi-party participation rather than "one party calling the shots." 

Only by cherishing sovereignty in cyberspace can each nation be bestowed with equal opportunity in formulating better global Internet governance rules.