For a start, it is often neglected in the cyber discourse that China is a major victim of cyber attacks. A Symantec Norton report has listed China as one of the countries' most seriously affected by cyber hazards. Recent research in the leading peer-reviewed academic journal International Security also finds that there is an 'under appreciation' of the cyber threat to China.
Second, because it is heavily impacted by cyber threats, it is in China's interests to enhance cybersecurity, both globally and domestically. This is all the more so given that China has the world's biggest online and mobile communities, and that the Internet is poised to play a larger role in driving Chinese economic growth. The Chinese government understands the importance of cybersecurity clearly. In 2014, it convened the first meeting of the Central Leading Group for Cyberspace Security. In July 2015, China produced a draft cybersecurity law for public consultation.
Third, while China has made numerous efforts to improve its cyber governance, the reality is that a truly global set of cyber rules and norms is still in a state of infancy. Because the US invented network-based systems and is the leading Internet and technological power, it has an advantage in influencing ideas of cyber governance. Yet its interpretation is just one perspective, one that has yet to be collectively endorsed at the United Nations. Its view often overlooks the interests of developing states or the specific national conditions of individual countries.
The arbitrary nature of the US interpretation is shown in the way in which it frames the notion of a cyber threat. For example, the US regards commercial cyber-espionage to be illegitimate, but considers cyber-espionage conducted in the name of national security to be fair game. Morally, this is akin to saying that it is OK to break into someone else's house in the interest of self-protection.
As a developing cyber power, China still has some way to go in Internet development. There remains a digital gap between the rural and urban areas, while technological innovation can be improved. Nevertheless, as China continues its cyber journey, it has shown that it will play a responsible role in making the Internet a better place—for itself and the world.
Hoo Tiang Boon, a coordinator, MSc. (Asian Studies) programme, and Assistant Professor with S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.
The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and don't represent views of China Daily website.