While many people consider China to be one of the central perpetrators of cyber malfeasance, it is also equally concerned about cyber attacks. As such, the Chinese are now looking to promote greater cooperation on the international stage for cyberspace.
Approximately 40,000 websites in China were hacked in 2009 alone, according to official statistics. Back in January, Baidu, a Chinese search engine, was hit in a cyber attack that shut the site down for around 4 hours.
“The Chinese have become more concerned with securing their own networks,“ says Jim Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “They know they are vulnerable and worry about their own hacker community.“
On June 8, the Information Office of the State Council in China published a white paper titled “The Internet in China.“ The paper outlines the Internet situation in China and China's Internet policies and views.
“This white paper is a step forward in international understanding, outreach and diplomacy,“ Lt. Gen. Harry Raduege, chairman of the Deloitte Center for Cyber Innovation and director of Deloitte Services LP, says. “It immediately follows the Worldwide Cybersecurity Summit in Dallas last month sponsored by the EastWest Institute in which the Chinese were active, open participants.“
China currently has the largest number of Internet users in the world, according to the paper.
“To build, utilize and administer the Internet well is an issue that concerns national economic prosperity and development, state security and social harmony, state sovereignty and dignity and the basic interests of the people,“ the paper states.
A central tenant of administering the Internet in China is control. Internet content in China is filtered, with the state regulating what can be accessed although, there are ways to circumvent the censor's efforts. In the Chinese penal code, there are seven overarching pieces of law that govern Internet use and security.
As use of the Internet expands, so does the chance of cyber attacks.
“Internet security problems are pressing nowadays, and this has become a problem of common concern in all countries,“ according to the paper. “China also faces severe Internet security threats.“
Providing protection for China's Internet infrastructure is a key goal, the paper states, and is necessary for the common good and security of the state.
“The Chinese government believes that the Internet is an important infrastructure facility for the nation,“ the report says.
Much of the report, however, contains caveats at crucial junctures. The report recognizes the Internet within a nation's borders is within the country's realm of sovereignty and cannot be infringed upon by other nations. Additionally, while the paper calls for protecting information flow and Internet freedoms, it provides that it must be “in accordance with the law.“
The Chinese do have significant worries regarding cyberspace, however. Computer crimes in China, as in much of the globe, have increased across the board. Around 18 million Chinese computers are infected by Conficker each month, according to the paper.
“The Chinese face severe Internet security threats but also believe that Internet security is a prerequisite for sound development and effective utilization of the Internet,“ Raduege says.
To promote and facilitate international dialogue and cooperation, the paper proposes any differences be set aside and nations seek common ground to promote security.
“[The Chinese] share some challenges with us ““ a lack of interagency coordination, supply chain worries and a porous infrastructure,“ Lewis says. “But they also have some advantages if they can figure out what to do.“
In an effort to promote international cooperation, the paper cites several initiatives that could encourage dialogue and exchange. One is to conduct exchanges with other nations and participate in international conferences.
“China maintains that all countries should “¦ actively conduct exchanges and cooperation in the Internet security industry [and] jointly shoulder the responsibility of maintaining global Internet security,“ according to the paper. “[Nations should] promote the healthy and orderly development of the industry and share the opportunities and achievements brought about by this development.“
China would like to see the United Nations take a central role in leading the international administration of the Internet. The resources available on the Internet are connected to the security and development of the Internet security industry, the paper says.
Additionally, China sees the benefits of forming exchanges and channels of cooperation.
“All countries should conduct multiform, multichannel and multilevel exchanges and cooperation in this regard on the basis of equality and mutual benefit,“ the paper says. “Experts and scholars of various countries should be encouraged to conduct academic exchanges and share their research findings.“
Law enforcement agencies should also increase coordination efforts to combat cyber crime, the paper states.
“At the Dallas Summit, the Chinese expressed concerns that Internet security opinions of different countries should be respected, yet common ground should be sought through strengthened international exchanges and cooperation,“ Raduege says.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C. could not be reached for comment.