Author: Eva Dou
Posted on: The Wall Street Journal, December 27th, 2016
China’s internet regulator issued the country’s first cyber strategy, emphasizing the necessity of securing critical infrastructure and the government’s right to control cyberspace in Chinese territory.
The strategic framework released Tuesday by the Cyberspace Administration of China offers few fresh initiatives but summarizes goals enumerated in a cybersecurity law and other regulations adopted over the past year. A guiding concept is “internet sovereignty”—which the document defines as China’s right to police the internet within its borders and participate in managing international cyberspace.
Under the cyber plan, equipment suppliers for a range of industries will be subject to security reviews to ensure adequate defenses against hackers. In addition to the finance, energy, telecoms and other critical sectors mentioned in the cybersecurity law, the document lists education, medicine and scientific research as among the fields subject to the reviews.
The strategy is likely to renew concern among Western governments and businesses about China’s censorship, industrial policies that use security concerns to favor local companies and a general fracturing of cyberspace into national enclaves.
The proposed security reviews have been particularly controversial in recent years, as Beijing has moved to tighten control over information networks. Western trade groups said China may use the security reviews to discriminate against foreign companies and force them to transfer proprietary technology. China’s Cyberspace Administration has said they would apply to domestic and foreign suppliers equally; its strategy document vowed to “protect internet security while maintaining openness to foreign parties.”
The strategic framework said China would use economic, legal, diplomatic and military means to protect its information security, though it didn’t elaborate.
“Cyberspace is the new territory of a country’s sovereignty,” the document said. “China should build up its defense capabilities in cyberspace as befits a cyber superpower.”
Unlike the U.S. national cyberspace strategy in 2011 which reserved the right to respond to cyberattacks with traditional military force, China’s strategy is more focused on domestic political priorities, said Fang Xingdong, founder of internet think tank ChinaLabs. He cited “political security and cultural security,” a catchphrase for domestic criticisms of the government.
”These challenges are actually different from the ones facing the U.S., so Americans have trouble understanding it or finding it acceptable,” said Mr. Fang.
Many planks in China’s cyberstrategy deal with the censorship of politically sensitive content and promoting websites with “socialist core values”—concepts that the ruling Communist Party advocates as an alternative to universal Western values.