Chinese Cyberspace (中国网络空间)
Below are a few conclusions we can draw regarding how the Chinese government views cyberspace (网络空间 wǎngluò kōngjiān).
Economic and cultural advantages of Cyberspace. There is acknowledgement of progress in communications, education, coordination and manufacturing, healthcare, finance and a number of other areas. Cyberspace is viewed as being a driver for economic development. In general, there is a very positive view of the potential for cyberspace to benefit both China and humanity as a whole.
Cyberspace is a new type of national “territory”. Although abstract in nature, the Chinese view is that cyberspace deserves the same type of protection as “brick and mortar” territory (land, sea, air, and space). Not only must the territory be protected, but it must be expanded if possible. There is a “competition” between nations to expand their cyber territory.
Threat to political security. The Internet and cyberspace can be used for many activities that might harm society or the political system. There is a risk to the “political security” (政治安全 zhèngzhì ānquán) of China. This view likely comes from the Chinese assessment of the “Arab Spring” or other social movements that have been enabled through the Internet and which destabilized or swept away governments.
Cyberspace can make China vulnerable to cyber espionage. China policymakers fear the use of the Internet for carrying out “cyber espionage” (网络窃密 wǎngluò qièmì) and for eavesdropping (网络监控 wǎngluò jiānkòng) (spying on) Chinese society, its businesses, associations, or government.
The Internet can be used by China’s enemies to destabilize its political system. There is a fear that by inciting social unrest and promoting unhealthy or incompatible ideas, the enemies of China may attempt to use the Internet to overthrow the government. As a result, part of the Chinese strategy for cyberspace is to put in place controls on information imported from outside China. This curbing of the free flow of information is viewed as being a prudent measure of public safety, and although there is a trade-off with individual rights, a priority is placed on maintaining social stability in the world’s largest nation.
Cyberspace should curtail other than socialist core values. China has a concept of harmful information (有害信息 yǒuhài xìnxī) and cultural security (文化安全 wénhuà ānquán) that do not have an exact equivalent elsewhere. The idea is that the Internet and its unfettered communication provide a platform for spreading obscenity (淫秽 yínhuì), ideas about violence (暴力 bàolì) against society, superstition (迷信 míxìn), moral anomie (道德失范 dàodé shīfàn), and decadence (颓废文化 tuí fèi wén huà). Here, the meaning of “superstition” really is “religion” as scientific communism or historical materialism do not recognize a supreme being, and promoting such beliefs is not compatible with communist society. Cyber space should be free of this type of content, much of which is commonplace in other parts of the world. The difference is that it is Chinese government policy to protect the Internet inside China from these bad influences.
Fake News in social media should be repressed. There is a specific notion that network rumors (网络谣言 wǎngluò yáoyán), can harm society. Therefore fake news should be kept off of the Internet. And this should be done by the government as a means of providing security to the Chinese people.
China employs a concept of “Internet Terrorism”. Online terrorism (网络恐怖 wǎngluò kǒngbù) is defined as being both general hacking (stealing information, infringement of intellectual property rights), as well as inciting and fomenting illegal behavior. There are three general classes of cyberspace terrorism: (1) using the Internet as a means of communication for the purpose of promoting terrorism; (2) committing computer crimes against persons or organizations; and (3) committing crimes against the Internet itself (hurting its operation, denial of service attacks, destruction of information or network logic), such as through introduction of viruses or malware (计算机病毒 jìsuànjī bìngdú). There is no significant difference between the Chinese and nation’s views in this area.
China views cyberspace as a new territory to control and harvest. Cyberspace is thought of as a new “territory” where it is vital for nations to grasp control of strategic resources (网络空间战略资源 wǎngluò kōngjiān zhànlüè zīyuán). This means not only grasping the physical aspects of the Internet where possible, but also getting control over how the rules are made. This is generally referred to as Internet Governance (规则制定权 guīzé zhìdìng quán). China’s approach to internet governance is to emphasize the role of government as taking the lead. This is in contrast to the multi-stakeholder processes in vogue in much of the rest of the world. The Chinese system is simply not organized to allow non-government actors to make public policy.
China is building a cyber deterrence capability. Cyberspace is a platform through which a nation can build a deterrence strategy (网络威慑战略 wǎngluò wēishè zhànlüè). Deterrence is the principle that a nation if attacked will retain enough capability to do a significant amount of damage against its enemies. This makes it impossible for one country to attack another without itself suffering overwhelming damage. It is speculation to suggest how this principle would work in cyberspace. Nevertheless, deterrence must be based on the development of offensive cyber capability, which we can assume China is busy developing. In this connection, Chinese strategy is focused on preventing cyberspace conflict (网络空间冲突 wǎngluò kōngjiān chōngtū).
China recognizes there is a cyber arms race that should be controlled. The Chinese view the cyber arms race (网络空间军备竞赛 wǎngluò kōngjiān jūnbèi jìngsài) as being a danger to international peace and security. It is not known if the Chinese Government is interested in pursuing an international treaty for the control of cyber weapons. However, it does acknowledge that there is an arms race in cyber. We can conclude that China is working as quickly as possible to develop and deploy an entire arsenal of cyber weapons. China recognizes the need to control the cyber arms race (网络空间军备竞赛 wǎngluò kōngjiān jūnbèi jìngsài).
China continues to deploy a national network control system. It appears that Internet security in its broadest sense is to be guaranteed by the Government of China through a national system (国家网络安全保障体系 guójiā wǎngluò ānquán bǎozhàng tǐxì). Cyber security (网络安全 wǎngluò ānquán) practices are intended to keep the network stable, reliable and secure.
China Supports Cyber Arms Control
China recognizes there is a cyber arms race that should be controlled. The Chinese view the cyber arms race (网络空间军备竞赛 wǎngluò kōngjiān jūnbèi jìngsài) as being a danger to international peace and security. It is not known if the Chinese Government is interested in pursuing an international treaty for the control of cyber weapons. However, it does acknowledge that there is an arms race in cyber. We can conclude that China is working as quickly as possible to develop and deploy an entire arsenal of cyber weapons. China recognizes the need to control the cyber arms race.
China intends to use international negotiations to govern cyberspace. The Chinese government is pursuing a multilateral governance system for the Internet(多边国际互联网治理体系 duōbiān guójì hùlián wǎngzhì lǐtǐ xì). Internet governance (网络空间治理 wǎngluò kōngjiān zhìlǐ) is viewed as handling terrorism, cybercrime, and even helping to bridge the digital divide(数字鸿沟 shùzì hónggōu) between developed and developing countries. It is not clear how much non-governmental input China views as being essential to development of a global multilateral Internet governance arrangement.
China’s Governing Principles for Cyberspace
A nation’s cyberspace is sovereign territory. A nation has complete authority within its territory, and within its cyberspace territory, to control everything that happens there. Cyberspace sovereignty(网络空间主权 wǎngluò kōngjiān zhǔquán) is an essential principle.
No nation should dominate cyberspace. China acknowledges the concept of “cyber hegemony”(网络霸权 wǎngluò bàquán), which may be a reference to the United States, which is the source of most of the world’s innovation and commercial products in cyberspace. No cyber-powerful nation should be able to destabilize the “cyberspace order”(网络空间秩序 wǎngluò kōngjiān zhìxù) by forcing into another country information that is harmful (有害信息 yǒuhài xìnxī) to its national security or national “interests”.
Use of Cyberspace should not threaten international peace and security. The Chinese view is that certain actions by nations can be a threat to international peace and security as defined in the United Nations Charter. This should be avoided. By specifically using the phrase “threat to international peace and security” (国际安全与稳定相悖 guó jì ān quán yǔ wěn dìng xiāng bèi), China is drawing upon the United Nations Charter. This presumably means that a cyber attack could be brought before the United Nations Security Council.
Law should govern cyberspace. There is a recognition that cyberspace should be governed by law (依法治理网络空间 yīfǎ zhìlǐ wǎngluò kōngjiān). This appears natural, but actually it is only one of several models for internet governance. An alternative view is to rely on self-organizing systems. For example, Wikipedia, the Linux operating system, or many internet technical standards are not planned, but instead are spontaneously created through more or less unorganized masses of contributors. This is explained clearly in the classic book The Cathedral and the Bazaar. The Chinese view of relying solely on law to govern cyberspace is in line with its view of government as being the premier and sole source of governance authority.
Eric S. Raymond, The cathedral and the bazaar : musings on Linux and Open Source by an accidental revolutionary, Beijing; Cambridge, Mass.: O’Reilly, 2001.