Bigger than the Pacific Ocean, Cyberspace Can Accommodate China and the US

The third U.S.-China High-Level Joint Dialogue on Cybercrime and Related Issues recently took place in Washington, with positive outcomes toward combating cybercrime and cyber-enabled crime and network protection. The two countries agreed it was in both their interests to continue to strengthen cooperation in cybersecurity. The beauty of the network lies in its interconnectedness. Managing and controlling the network at the national level, China and the U.S. have reached a consensus that they need to continue close cooperation in this field.

Although there have been disputes and arguments between China and the U.S. over the years, in areas such as network management mechanisms, cybersecurity and cybercrime, the world has witnessed the convergence of the two countries’ interests in this field along with the necessity to cooperate and how closely one is linked to the other; clearly, these developments are not to be ignored. The U.S. is the creator of the internet, and a main exporter of network technologies, taking the lead in internet development; China is a major consumer of the internet with the world’s largest internet user population – the scale of its network is the envy of many countries. The extent to which the network contributes to Chinese and American economic and social development is unrivaled, and no country has more real interests in cyberspace and a greater need for it than China and the United States. Against this backdrop, the ultimate choice for China and the U.S. is to strengthen network cooperation, especially in areas such as safeguarding network security and combating cybercrime through law enforcement.

The network has already spread like mercury throughout the world, permeating all gaps and seeping into the ground where spilled. But different countries are at various stages of internet development and application, and they face different kinds of cybersecurity issues with different needs and models of network governance, so sometimes disputes and misunderstandings are inevitable. It is not terrible to have misunderstandings and disputes. What is terrible is the lack of a mechanism for discussion and negotiation to resolve differences, which otherwise will lead to exaggerated or even irreconcilable disputes and misunderstanding. China and the U.S. need mechanisms just like the High-Level Joint Dialogues on Cybercrime and Related Issues to explain the purposes of their networks, to express concern for each other’s network, to explore shared network needs, and to effectively manage and control network disputes.

Cyberspace must be shared and jointly governed. If any country attempts to use its temporary technological advantage to trample on the weak, under the law of the jungle, or attempts to treat neighboring countries as dumping grounds and direct disasters their way for self-protection, I’m afraid such countries will eventually get hurt. The network does not have a national boundary. Neither does cybercrime, such as hacker attacks, cyberfraud and cyberterrorism. Any threat to cybersecurity is a danger to the international community. As big network countries, China and the U.S. have more at stake considering the threats and challenges they face. Although both are network giants with tremendous technological capabilities, scale and volume, I’m afraid neither China nor the U.S. can claim that either can thoroughly resolve all cybersecurity issues, especially cross-border cybercrime, on their own. This is where Chinese and American key interests in network cooperation converge. When it comes to cybersecurity and network governance, China and the U.S. will both win if they work together, and both lose if they antagonize each other.

As influential powers, China and the U.S. will motivate their people and other countries and set examples through network cooperation. Domestically in China and the U.S., the motives and reasons for cyberattacks are complicated but real. To combat all kinds of cyberattacks, cooperation between Chinese and U.S. officials, or cooperation at the national level, is viewed as a mechanism for deterring, guiding and restraining, and it can help reduce damages caused by cybercrime. At the international level, it is the obligation and responsibility of powers like China and the U.S. to safeguard a secure cyberspace, to ensure the network’s sustainable development, and to make the network a tool that can improve the well-being of all mankind. Because of the network’s interconnectedness, antagonism in cyberspace spreads further and wider with risks less and less within control. If the international network is full of suspicion and antagonism, then no country alone can sustain a secure network. No country can benefit from a model of cybersecurity governance that is damaging to all.

Whether it’s for both countries’ mutual interests or out of international responsibility, China and the U.S. should strive to continue to deepen cooperation in cybersecurity. The international community urgently needs an international mechanism of cyberspace governance now, and many countries have expressed their views and shared their visions on different occasions. China and the U.S. are fully capable of taking the positive outcomes of their bilateral cybersecurity cooperation to the next level and contributing experience and samples to a model that governs the internet and to a global framework of internet governance.

Therefore, China and the U.S. need to further deepen their cybersecurity cooperation based on the existing mechanism. The U.S.-China High-Level Joint Dialogue on Cybercrime and Related Issues, which took place only recently, is an intergovernmental dialogue mechanism of the highest level and authority on U.S.-China cybersecurity cooperation. This mechanism demonstrates consensus between China and the U.S., as well as their sincerity to cooperate in dealings with cybersecurity. In the future, the two countries will be able to consider other mechanisms with richer content and through more channels and in more flexible forms to complement the mechanism of the U.S.-China High-Level Joint Dialogue on Cybercrime and Related Issues. Examples of new mechanisms include China-U.S. think tank dialogues about the internet and mechanisms for more direct cooperation between relevant cybersecurity law enforcement authorities in China and the United States.

In cooperating with respect to law enforcement and cybersecurity, China and the U.S., as big network countries, not only share mutual interests but also face indiscriminate threats. By working together, both will benefit and win; by antagonizing each other, both will lose and suffer damage. As an ancient Chinese poem says, “The ocean is wide enough to let all fish swim, and the sky is high enough to let all birds fly.” Just as the Pacific Ocean is big enough to accommodate both China and the U.S., cyberspace is immense enough to accommodate all the interests and dreams of mankind, including those of the Chinese and American people.

The author is vice president of China University of Political Science and Law.

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