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Better understanding, better future

By Wu Jiangang ( Updated: 2015-12-21 10:56

It is important to understand China's attitude toward Internet. Considering the size and influence of China's Internet, the mutual understanding is not a minor issue and needs to be addressed. After all, better understanding can bring better future for both China and other countries.

President Xi Jinping, in the keynote speech at the second World Internet Conference on Wednesday, called for "a multilateral, democratic and transparent global Internet governance system".

But for some Westerners, Xi's remark can make them feel confused.

However, President Xi's speech also stressed that every nation should have independent authority over its own Internet, which may be the key point.

China's Internet is developing very fast and its size and level of development ranks at the top not only domestically but also worldwide and that the government relies on it to solve its difficult economic transition is unquestionable. So how should we understand China's current attitude to Internet?

Though conspiracy theory can occupy part of the market in giving explanation, the true is often not that simple. Part of the explanation can be from culture. The dividing line between freedom and order can be very different from culture to culture. Westerners might feel confused that people in other culture regard public security as their core interests.

But more import reason may come from history. For Chinese, after nearly a century's social unrest, the last 30 years' of fast development is much precious and they cherish the current peace and stability. Those who have not come to China may conjecture from Internet regulation that Chinese life is not safe and free, but the true is that Chinese daily life is extremely free and safe and even much better by Western standards. The Chinese want the government to maintain security and stability, which is an extremely important public service, especially in key stage of China's economic transition.

China's per capita is only seventh of the US's. To ensure economic development is the first prerequisite, otherwise the problem of poverty can drag the society into disaster. China is eager to have longer fast development period. China's leaders, who went through those turbulent years, considering that a few people, driven by ulterior motives, can use Internet to amplify certain information, will make a difficult decision to give up some inconvenience to prevent unpredictable consequences. Their behaviors may seem an overreaction, but do not lack historical wisdom and practical reasoning.

China's society is not without risk. Its huge population constitutes complicated groups. There is hardly an alternative system that can be cheaper, safe or more efficient in running such a huge complicated society. To destruct the current system is one thing, to construct a better one is another. China is unique, China is huge and it cannot directly copy systems from other societies. China has its reasons to be careful.

China can also have other reasons, such as information safety and cyber security, which can be the same reason why when there has been a GPS system almost totally for free, China is spending a lot of money to build another satellite navigation system named BeiDou.

In fact, one thing needs to be clarified. The reasons of defeats of international Internet companies such as Google, eBay, Amazon, Bing, etc. should relate mainly to that they have not well localized or invested sufficient resources or simply lacked competitiveness. China's control on Internet is much weak compared with other industries, which makes that enterprises have to create various innovations to deal with the fierce competition for survival. However, China's survived Internet companies may benefit from their fast adjustments to China's huge market's demand and low cost of high-tech talent manpower.

Mr. Xi said foreign Internet companies are still welcome in China and cited examples of potential cooperation in areas like e-commerce. "As long as they abide by China's laws, we warmly welcome enterprises and business-starters from all countries to invest and do business in China," he said.

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