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China Pushes to Rewrite Rules of Global Internet

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An Internet cafe in Fuyang, China.

China's government wants to wrest control of the global Internet from digital leaders such as the United States.

Credit: An Ming/Featurechina/Zuma Press

China's government aims to redraft the rules of the global Internet, wresting control from digital leaders such as the United States so it can regulate the Internet on its own terms.

Chinese president Xi Jinping and a host of conservative stakeholders are putting pressure on foreign companies to splinter the international Internet system by passing security statutes, including one that would force foreign equipment vendors to hand over encryption keys to local authorities.

China's government also is supporting and incubating domestic companies that are developing semiconductors and servers to replace those provided by Western firms.

Using national security as an argument, China also proposed the United Nations adopt an Internet "code of conduct" so any government could effectively reject technical protocols interlinking the worldwide Internet.

Experts say this paints a grim picture for online freedom as well as fair competition. "Nations enforcing their own Internet restrictions present a tension between national interests and participation in a global marketplace," warns New America's Rebecca MacKinnon.

China's strategy may work to its disadvantage, as curbing Internet freedoms could estrange users and engender distrust of the regime. It also could restrict Chinese development if domestic researchers and others are denied access to online resources that help foster innovation.

From The Wall Street Journal
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