We are entering the Internet age due to the information technology revolution. I learned at the ICANN 50 in London this June that 72 percent of the EU population regularly uses the Internet, and that the EU will be a Digital Single Market by 2015. Creating a real digital single market could alone generate a 4 percent GDP increase for the EU by 2020. So, with the Internet generating such tremendous momentum for social and economic development, as those in the EU might say, “Internet connections, information technology and telecommunications can enable everyone, old or young, man or woman, to achieve their dreams and ambitions.”
Indeed, China has been connected to the Internet for only 20 years. In a mere two decades, the Internet has not only changed the country’s economic and social life, but has become an essential part of the Chinese way of life. Now, China has more than six hundred million netizens, who spend more than 1.2 trillion Euros in e-commerce every year, contributing more than one tenth to China’s economy. On top of all this, just a few weeks ago, Alibaba, a Chinese e-commerce giant, held in the United States the largest initial public offering (IPO) ever seen there, taking a large step toward achieving the Chinese Dream in online success. So the Internet is carrying all aspects of our world, the trajectories of states and societies and everyday life, into a global future.
But the Internet has its own potential for hazards: it could be Alibaba’s treasure cave as much as Pandora’s box; and that depends on us. Different countries may have different ideas, even disputes at times, on the Internet and its governance, due to their own unique past, present and experiences with it. However, the same end should prevail for all of them, of making the Internet a blessing and boon, instead of a global ailment, for people throughout the world; an instrument of peace and security, instead of a weapon for interstate conflicts; a way towards the legitimate rights and interests of citizens, not a den of crime, and never a habitat of terrorism. The Internet should be a forum of honest and sensible opinions, not a market of slander and scams. And by offering more positive energy, this ongoing global achievement could help keep and expand the great heritage of mankind, and build the coming generations into something better than us.
China and the EU are, respectively, an important representative of oriental culture and the cradle of Western civilisation. As the world’s most representative emerging economy and a group of developed countries respectively, they are two major forces for world peace. China and the EU should answer the call of our time, and strive to build a cyberspace of peace, security, inclusiveness and cooperation. During his visit to Europe in March, President Xi Jinping called for efforts to forge four major partnerships for peace, growth, reform and civilisation between China and the EU. We can utilize the powers of the Internet in cooperation, to inject new horsepower into the four major partnerships and make them even stronger and better.
The Internet could help China and the EU concentrate their strength. Covering one tenth of the world and holding a quarter of its population, China and the EU are key to world peace, and to stability in international affairs. With cyber security already a global issue, both sides could enhance dialogue and coordination for better cooperation on law, regulation and policies regarding cyberspace. Together, they can curb problems ranging from online pornography to cyber crimes and cyber terrorism, protect the legitimate rights and interests of citizens, and make cyberspace a safer and cleaner place for children. There should be more coordination on international Internet governance between China and the EU. With mutual respect for Internet sovereignty, better information security, and no cyber hegemony, it is very possible for both sides to build a multilateral, democratic and transparent system of international Internet governance.
The Internet should interface our markets. China and the EU are the two most important economies in the world, making up a third of the global economy. With 1.1 billion Internet users, the gigantic market potential of China and the EU is awaiting release. We would like to actively cooperate with the EU in e-commerce and to expand high-tech trade between us in terms of coverage and depth. Both sides could work to serve trade better with improved logistics distribution systems and cross-border service platforms, and big data analysis could help us deal together with risks in finance, the economy and commerce. Should we in China and the EU integrate our cooperation on Internet-related issues with construction of the Silk Road Economic Belt, and fully engage firms, staff, technology, and financial resources for and about the Internet across the Eurasian Continent, we will be able to make a new engine for Eurasian economic growth out of the familiar Internet.
The Internet should play a role in China’s and the EU’s reform. Both China and the EU are overhauling themselves as never seen before in the history of mankind. China is currently driving its industrialisation, urbanisation and agricultural modernisation with informatisation, while modernising its system and capacity for national governance. The EU, in a similar manner, made the Digital Agenda for Europe a centerpiece of its Europe 2020 strategy.
In this environment, China and the EU could cooperate more on improving information infrastructure, working together to build an information superhighway, while sharing their experience in expanding Internet coverage. Technological cooperation in Internet communication, cyber security, cloud computing and the Internet of Things may all be enhanced between China and the EU, and both sides should take part in developing important international technical standards together when it comes to information technology and standard-making. It is time for China and the EU to share their achievements in Internet technology and related industrial development by building every kind of information platform on the basis of all-around information sharing – for finance, customs clearance, e-ports, natural disaster warning and assessment, geographic information, and even more, to bring and share more opportunities through more information.
The two great civilisations of China and Europe will be brought closer by the Internet. While China epitomises cultures of the East in many ways, Europe is an important source of Western civilization. Over the course of millennia past, both nourished each other so much. Now, the Internet has opened an expressway for China and the EU to reach and learn from each other in unprecedented inclusiveness. So we should boost online cultural exchanges between us, and enable the ordinary Chinese and European citizen to gain more knowledge about the other’s policies, goals, strategic trends and essence of cultures, in order to bring our cultures forward in a diversified and inclusive environment. The Internet should, above all, bridge and bring together the hearts of our young people and the new generation. This November, the first World Internet Conference will be held in China. You are all welcome to attend to make a better future for the Internet.
As an old Chinese saying goes, “If you can one day renovate yourself, do so from day to day. Yea, let there be daily renovation.” China and the EU should ride the trend of our time by utilizing the full potential of the Internet, and through consensus, sharing, win-win cooperation, innovation and combined efforts, build a bright future for humanity.
By Lu Wei
Minister for Cyberspace Administration, People’s Republic of China