Internet Sovereignty

A statement of immense geostrategic importance is noted by The Wall Street Journal:

In a full-page spread on the Monday, the Communist Party’s mouthpiece newspaper laid out China’s position on how the Internet and its supporting infrastructure should be dealt with across the globe.

The page featured interviews with five Chinese experts, including the so-called “father” of China’s Great Firewall Fan Binxing. The upshot: They believe each country should have ultimate power to determine what Internet traffic flows in and out of its territory. It’s a concept China has termed “Internet sovereignty,” and though the opinions of each expert in the article varied, the core message is that each nation should have the right to govern the Internet as it sees fit.

The only absolutely safe forecast at this point: It’s going to be complicated.

ADDED: Surely related —

Conceived of by the Pentagon in order to keep lines of communication open after atomic attack, the Internet has become a threat. Humankind has once again outsmarted itself. We now need confidence in our ability to find a way to neutralize the enemy. (Good luck with that.)

ADDED: The Diplomat strangely downplays the defensive character of the initiative.

3 thoughts on “Internet Sovereignty

  1. What does it feel like to run a blog and Twitter feed aimed at an international audience from Shanghai? Do you feel like you’re in prison? As a reader, it doesn’t seem like it’s obviously much more inconvenient than if you were running it from London or New York.

    When I was in the PRC last year, I found the internet censorship annoying, but also cack-handed. It didn’t filter out ill-informed, spiteful anti-China attacks in The Guardian, but it did filter out positive pro-China private blogs. Every sophisticated Chinese person I spoke to at length seemed to know everything the Great Firewall was supposed to stop them knowing.

    I wonder if the whole Great Firewall is just an elaborate ritual of pretence. We’ll pretend we stopped you reading X, and you’ll pretend you didn’t read X. As long as we both keep up the pretence, everything will be okay.

    • Your final paragraph is extremely insightful.

      One factor that is often neglected concerning the Great Firewall is classic mercantilism. The Internet is the leading industrial frontier of our age, and like all rising powers before it, China uses strategic commercial obstruction to advance its indigenous capabilities. I’d very much like to believe such policies were reliably counter-productive. but I can’t quite coax myself into dogmatism on the question.

      With a functional VPN, the GWC doesn’t rise above the level of minor nuisance. (I certainly don’t feel as if I’m “in prison” — more like one of the few to have escaped …)

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