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China reasserts right to 'cyber sovereignty'

By James Walker     Dec 4, 2017 in Technology
Chinese President Xi Jinping has stated the country will not cut off the global Internet but is committed to achieving its vision of "cyber sovereignty." During a speech in China, Xi said each country should be able to internally regulate the Internet.
The speech, made at the World Internet Conference, has been interpreted as a sign from China that it sees the value of the open Internet but will not move away from its own system of censorship and state control. According to Reuters, Xi noted that China is "entering a fast lane" in its online development, so its doors will "only become more and more open" over the next few years.
These comments come after a period of significant cyber regulation in China over the past twelve months. The company has doubled down on the censoring of tools that formerly let Chinese Internet users bypass the "Great Firewall." The ruling Communist party has also imposed stringent regulations on foreign Internet companies that force them to store Chinese data inside the country.
Xi used the speech to advocate "cyber sovereignty," the idea that individual nation states should be allowed to internally govern the Internet as they desire. Cyber sovereignty is now a concept defined inside Chinese law, allowing the Communist government to censor the Internet that its citizens consume. China has repeatedly called for internal regulation to be recognised as a practice which doesn’t have to undermine the global open web.
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Apple CEO Tim Cook, attending the event, appeared to celebrate China's pitch for an "open" Internet. He said Apple is "proud" to have worked alongside Chinese partners in creating a digital economy structured around shared benefits. However, he also called for China to "join a common future in cyberspace." His comments were criticised by some free speech advocates as he avoided addressing China's use of censorship.
The World Internet Conference comes after a year in which China has become more assertive over its perceived right to regulate its internal Internet. The country has made it more difficult for foreign cloud providers to operate within its borders, moved to ban cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and outlawed consumer technologies such as VPNs that formerly provided routes to the open Internet.
The actions come as Chinese tech companies are expanding their presence overseas and growing to rival many Western service providers. Firms such as Tencent and Baidu now have user numbers to rival Facebook and Google. Banning foreign services from the country ensures Chinese firms are able to grow, a situation that could soon present a significant threat to Western tech firms. Representatives of Tencent, Baidu and Alibaba were amongst the attendees at the conference.
More about China, chinese internet, cyber sovereignty, Internet, Censorship