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Shared future in cyberspace preferable to a virtual Cold War

2019-10-21Source: China Daily   

For China, a latecomer to development, the information age represents a chance for it to catch up with developed countries. And the nation has wholeheartedly embraced the internet since it was first connected in 1994.

The internet's penetration into every nook and cranny of life in China has helped create its magic. For instance, the 854 million internet users in China spend four hours online each day on average throughout a year, which makes it the activity second only to sleeping in terms of the amount of time people spend doing it.

That perhaps explains why internet tycoons, apart from being seen as industry leaders, technology geeks and billionaires, are also viewed as seers who can read the future in the runes written on byte-sized bones, and why their annual gatherings, under the banner of the World Internet Conference, in Wuzhen, East China's Zhejiang province, always grab attention.

People are eager to sniff out signs and clues from their exchanges of what the future might have in store.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the birth of the internet, and it has become so all-pervasive that many of us now take it for granted that it will be there when we want it, and that it will continue to usher in new developments that will transform our lives in unexpected and exciting ways.

And new applications such as artificial intelligence, big data and the internet of things do herald profound changes to come.

Thus the internet as it enters its sixth decade is embracing stronger development momentum and broader development space, as President Xi Jinping said in his congratulatory letter to the sixth WIC which lasts from Sunday to Tuesday.

He urged the international community to develop, use and govern the internet well so that it can better benefit everyone.

He said it is the common responsibility of countries to ensure the internet is a boon for efforts to materialize a global community with a shared future.

That in this instance, the envisioned community is a virtual one does not diminish the urgency for its materialization. The subtext of Xi's message was self-evident: The governance of cyberspace remains divided and this allows it to be a tool of those who would use it for nefarious purposes.

That this year the WIC has published a document setting out a set of universal values will hopefully mark the beginning of a new era for the internet, one in which international efforts are concerted and focused on building a cyber community in which the internet is harnessed for the common good.