During the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, Chinese and American leaders discussed issues of network security and agreed to continue to promote the “Six Consensus,” an agreement that was reached in Washington D.C. last September by the two countries’ leaders.
In the past year, the two governments have effectively collaborated toward realizing the consensus, but at the same time, it is necessary to see the rather large distance between the current collaboration channel and its results and the ultimate level of mutual trust. It could be said that the results already achieved are primarily based on solving and reacting to the “PRISM” incident, the “indictment of military members” and other sudden security issues affecting the two countries. However, there is a lack of momentum, and progress has been slow toward creating international rules for the internet space, showing, to a certain degree, the lack of trust on both sides.
The chief tasks in China-U.S. network security collaborations are to avoid differences, control crises and increase collaborations; the key is in “building trust measures.” America emphasized “measures” and saw a good communication channel as the priority, constantly reminding China to fulfill its promise, all the while ignoring the fact that trust is built upon both sides being sincere and keeping the other’s interests at heart. America has both openly and subtly pushed back on the issue of network sovereignty and hosting the “World Internet Conference” as put forward by China. Meanwhile, America is skimming over the issues China is concerned with, such as network attacks and large-scale network information gathering, instead of treating these concerns with sincerity.
Currently, the new network security collaborations bottleneck facing China and the U.S. needs a breakthrough, which will require both countries’ governments to be proactive, to continue pragmatic collaborations on the government-level, and to promote the exchange and partnership between business and industry. Collaboration also needs to be strengthened for major network problems such as the digital economy and the global supply chain. The digital economy is the new direction for the development of both of these countries and the global economy, yet both countries still lack a basic consensus on many of its components, especially regarding matters of information exchange and intellectual property protection, etc. The two countries need to increase discussions toward devising a set of related regulations and jointly promote the development of the digital economy. In addition, while both China and the U.S. have realized the importance of security for the global supply chain, there is no agreement on how to develop a partnership.
If the two countries’ lack of trust in network security affects their bilateral or even global collaborations, then not only will it be impossible to realize the goal where “network security is the highlight of the two countries’ collaborations,” it will even affect the order and future of the global network space. Therefore, establishing mutual trust between China and America is a critical and long-term task, and one that requires more effort by both government and society.
The author is an associate researcher at the Global Governance Research Institute at the Shanghai Institutes For International Studies.