WUZHEN, China (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater cooperation among nations in developing and governing the internet, while reiterating the need to respect so-called “cyber sovereignty”.
Speaking at an internet conference in Wuzhen, in the eastern province of Zhejiang, Xi and propaganda chief Liu Yunshan signaled a willingness to step up China’s role in global internet governance, seeking to rectify “imbalances” in the way standards across cyberspace are set.
“The development of the internet knows no international boundaries. The sound use, development and governance of the internet thus calls for closer cooperation,” Xi said in a video message at the start of China’s third World Internet Conference.
While China’s influence in global technology has grown, its ruling Communist Party led by Xi has presided over broader and more vigorous efforts to control, and often censor, the flow of information online.
China infamously operates the so-called “Great Firewall”, the world’s most sophisticated online censorship system, to block and attack Internet services the government deems unsavory.
Xi repeated China’s pledge to “promote equitable global internet governance” while upholding “cyber sovereignty”, or the right of countries to determine how they want to manage the internet.
China’s rubber stamp parliament adopted a controversial cybersecurity law this month that overseas critics say could shut foreign businesses out of various sectors in China.
More than 40 international groups and technology organizations have condemned the law, which introduces sweeping surveillance measures and local data storage requirements.
Beijing says the law was designed to root out cybercecurity threats in “critical” industries, and not to target foreign businesses.
China hopes to cooperate with other countries to develop international rules and standards for the internet “in a more balanced way”, said Liu, a member of the Party’s leading Politburo Standing Committee.
Insecurity in one corner of the internet was a risk to all, he warned.
“There can’t be national security for one country while there is insecurity in another. (Countries) can’t seek their own so-called ‘absolute security’ while sacrificing the security of another country,” Liu said.
Editing by John Ruwitch and Clarence Fernandez