Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Xi's Internet Vision

Xi Jinping gives the keynote address calling for a system of cybersecurity
The World Internet Conference has started in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, and it seems there are double standards when it comes to foreign reporters and local ones covering the event.

Turns out all overseas guests and tech tycoons were given a Mi Note LTE by Xiaomi, for not only making calls but also using wifi.

All these smartphones were pre-installed with an app offering helpful information about the conference agenda, and was theirs to keep after the conference.

The coveted Xiaomi phone to jump the firewall
Also -- the guests reported being given special access to websites that are usually blocked on the mainland, such as Facebook, Twitter and Google.

One Hong Kong reporter was put in a hotel near the conference site and was given an individual account and password for his in-room wifi.

There he was able to access the normally blocked sites. But if he switched off the account and tried to use the regular internet, he was unable to access the same sites.

Local media not only did not get the Xiaomi phone, nor special access to the blocked sites. Even worse, they had to stay in hotels further away from the conference venue.

Meanwhile Chinese President Xi Jinping gave a 30-minute speech, spelling out his vision for a new system of cybersecurity governance to prevent cyberterrorism, and that each country had its right to set its own rules.

"There should be no internet hegemony. No interference in another country's internal affairs. No engagement in tolerating or supporting internet activities that damage another country's national security," Xi said. "We should respect other countries' rights to peaceful involvement in international cyberspace governance, including their choices of internet development, regulation and public policies."

Not having access to the internet is counterproductive
Ah, that favourite word -- hegemony. Only China uses it liberally to jab at countries like the United States for its supposed control over the world.

But really, no one "owns" the internet. While it is understandable that it needs to be regulated for things like violent pornography, racism, holocaust deniers and so on, the internet should be accessible to everyone who wants access to information.

We are living in an age where being able to access this information is so crucial to one's education, job and well-being that to deny it to people by claiming the need to regulate for "national security" is not the way to help a country develop its citizens and economy.

It seems like the Chinese government wants its people to remain in the dark -- one of the last few ways it can control its citizens through the information they receive.

It's quite ironic China is hosting this internet conference and trying to persuade others of its case for each country controlling its own internet and not to interfere in other countries' affairs.

Sound familiar?

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