In my new article for the Berlin Policy Journal (BPJ) entitled “Controlled Harbor” I analyze Beijing’s cyber strategy and its implications for Western businesses and institutions operating in China. Earlier this year, Beijing passed the new Cybersecurity Law as well as new regulations concerning publishing online contents by foreign enterprises. Moreover, Beijing is now trying to revise the rules regarding domain name management so that foreign companies would have to register with a Chinese registrar if their website was to be hosted in China. Taken together, these measures are part of Beijing’s attempt to further tighten its control of the (Chinese) internet.
According to Beijing, the internet should be administered similar to a world order based on the interaction of different sovereign states. While nobody would question China’s sovereignty, Beijing’s cyber policy (which is supported by countries like Russia and Saudi Arabia) is detrimental to the very idea of the internet: a web that allows the free flow of information across borders. Of course there are some legitimate security concerns (like cyber crime or the dissemination of terrorist propaganda) but Beijing’s restrictive policy is too broad and runs the risk of further hampering innovation and economic growth.
Beijing’s cyber strategy could be much improved
In the mid- to long-term, Beijing would do much better by loosening its control of the internet. By treating cyberspace more like a global issue like climate change that requires the cooperation of all countries, Beijing would demonstrate that it can play a constructive leadership role on the world stage. Beijing should not fear that this would mean foreign interference with its domestic affairs. While, for the time being, this position remains wishful thinking, it’d be a much more healthy approach from both a business and foreign policy perspective.
My article is part of my ongoing work on issues of cybersecurity, Beijing’s cyber strategy, and the prospects for large (and small) international businesses operating in this challenging digital environment. If you’re interested in this topic, you should also check out our “China Internet and Social Media Data Monitor” (CISM) which we recently launched at Think Asia Group.
Stay tuned for more!