The handover of ICANN, the body that governs domain name registration, fits into a strategy by the Chinese regime to determine how the Internet is run
In November 2014, Li Yuxiao, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Cyberspace, stated, according to the state-run China Daily, “Now is the time for China to realize its responsibilities. If the United States is willing to give up its running of the internet sphere, the question comes as to who will take the baton and how it would be run?”
“We have to first set our goal in cyberspace, and then think about the strategy to take, before moving on to refining our laws,” he said.
Li’s comments were in response to news, also in 2014, that the United States would relinquish its remaining federal government control of the internet by ending its contract between the Commerce Department and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which is scheduled for Oct. 1.
As the United States plans to relinquish control of ICANN—and with this, fully end U.S. oversight of the Internet—the Chinese regime has moved to fill the void.
Over the last two years, it has drafted an authoritarian set of laws that governs every facet of the Internet, and it has formed or gained control over domestic and international bodies to press these new laws for the Internet through the United Nations, through domestic enforcement including on foreign companies inside China, and through organizations formed to interface directly with major technology companies abroad.
ICANN is the body that governs domain name registration and ensures users are not redirected to a site they don’t intend to visit.
The United Nations branch responsible for internet-related issues, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), has been pushing to assume control of ICANN—and China has been working hard to control the ITU.
Laying the Groundwork
In the two years since Li gave his speech at the World Internet Conference, which had the slogan “An Interconnected World Shared and Governed by All,” the Chinese regime has gained ground in the goal to govern the global internet that Li laid out. The three-day conference in Wuzhen brought together more than 1,000 internet companies from over 100 countries and regions.
Li is now the secretary-general of the Cyber Security Association of China, which is chaired by Fang Binxing, the creator of China’s “Great Firewall,” which censors and monitors its internet. While the association uses enforcement of “cybersecurity” as a front, it is tasked specifically with enforcing the Chinese regime’s version of law on the internet.
China is also now at the helm of the International Telecommunications Union, a United Nations body that has pushed to control the global Internet. Internet, which they have already started trying to enforce on U.S. and other companies operating in China.
The Chinese regime has also begun bringing major U.S. tech firms—including Microsoft Corp., Intel Corp., Cisco Systems Inc., and IBM—into its Technological Committee 260, tasked, according to the Wall Street Journal, with helping Chinese authorities draft rules for issues including encryption, big data, and cybersecurity and with determining which technologies should be “secure and controllable” under the Chinese regime.
The Chinese regime created a requirement that all key network infrastructure and information systems need to be “secure and controllable” as one piece of the sweeping National Security Law that covered everything from culture to politics, military space, the economy, the environment, and technology.
Soon after it was passed on July 1, 2015, The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation explained the requirement as “part of a strategic effort” intended to “ultimately supplant foreign technology companies both in China and in markets around the world.”
While the Chinese regime has started using “cybersecurity” to mask its goals, officials of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its state-run news outlets were very candid about their intentions at the 2014 World Internet Conference.
The state-run China Daily reported at the time that, “experts said China is using the platform to sell its own strategy and rules to the world, a mission that the world’s largest cyberpower with the most internet users has deemed significant and urgent.”
CCP Premier Li Keqiang said, in comments summarized by China Daily, that “China is considering setting up its own rules in cyberspace,” and that the CCP wants to create a “common code of rules” for the internet.
China Daily then quoted Shen Yi, an associate professor specializing in cybersecurity at Fudan University, who stated more directly that “China has the capability now to set up international rules for cyberspace and use our strategy and our rules to influence the world.”
A Contentious Move
Many U.S. government officials, organizations, and experts have sounded an alarm about the upcoming plans for the United States to relinquish control of ICANN, over concerns that a foreign authoritarian power may attempt to do precisely what the Chinese regime has already set into motion.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) introduced a bill, the Protecting Internet Freedom Act, on June 8, which seeks to prevent the U.S. handover of ICANN, and to ensure the United States retains sole ownership of .com and .mil domain names.
A post about the bill on Ted Cruz’s website states, “If that proposal goes through, countries like Russia, China, and Iran could be able to censor speech on the internet, including here in the United States, by blocking access to sites they don’t like.”
Laws For the Internet
Cyber Security Association of China
On March 25, 2016, the CCP formed the Cyber Security Association of China, which claims to be a national nonprofit organization (NPO), but according to a report from the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), the association answers directly to the Leading Small Group for Network Security and Information, which is chaired by CCP leader Xi Jinping and is “responsible for shaping and implementing information security and internet policies and laws.”
The report states the CCP “is moving at breakneck speed to develop the institutions, as well as legal and regulatory mechanisms, necessary to strengthen cyber governance.” It says the organization will focus on issues including security of information systems, technology support, “public opinion supervision to help in information control and propaganda,” and “protecting core Chinese interests under globalization, and promoting globally competitive Chinese IT companies.”
According to Xia at the Human Rights Law Foundation, there is more to the statement “protecting core Chinese interests under globalization” than meets the eye.
“In the CCP’s language, it’s a way to keep the CCP in power by any means,” he said, adding that “They have a very clear definition of ‘core interests.’”
“No matter the policy, it is to keep the CCP in power. That’s the only reason for all policy [under the CCP],” Xia said. He notes that the CCP’s policies outside China also serve the primary role “to enhance the CCP’s argument that it legally rules China.”
Full article: China Could Control the Global Internet After Oct. 1 (The Epoch Times)