Xi instructs on cybersecurity work, highlights principles to boost cyberspace strength
Cyberspace becomes a main battlefield for major-power rivalry, a key part of national security
Published: Jul 16, 2023 07:18 PM
cyberspace Photo:VCG

cyberspace Photo:VCG

Faced with ever growing complex national security risks and challenges both domestically and on the international stage, China's top leadership has reviewed the cybersecurity work over the past five years, emphasizing adherence to several principles such as the Party exercising leadership over cyberspace affairs and strengthened capability to ensure the cybersecurity of the country, which experts said provides a clear road map to boost China's strength in cyberspace when it has become a main battlefield for rivalry between major powers. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed the need to thoroughly implement the important guidelines of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee on boosting China's strength in cyberspace, and to vigorously advance the high-quality development of the work on cybersecurity and informatization, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Saturday.  

Xi, also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the remarks in a recent instruction on cybersecurity and informatization work.

Xi said the important role of the cybersecurity and informatization work is increasingly prominent in the new era, stressing adherence to several principles, including the Party exercising leadership over cyberspace affairs, developing cyberspace affairs for the people, and taking a path of internet governance with Chinese characteristics.

He also underscored the need to coordinate development and security, strengthen the capability to ensure cybersecurity of the country, and promote building a community of a shared future in cyberspace.

A national meeting on work concerning cybersecurity and informatization was held from Friday to Saturday in Beijing. Some media noted that it was the second nationwide work meeting on cybersecurity and informatization within five years after the first, held in April 2018, that formulated strategic arrangements for the work in new era. 

A major highlight from the latest meeting is that it put forward "adherence to several principles," which will help form a more integrated theory guidance for how to boost the country's strength in cyberspace based on experiences gained over the past decades and clarified some specific requirements for the future work in line with the report to the 20th National Congress of the CPC, which indicates that cybersecurity is a key area of the national security system, experts said. 

Complex risks 

Covering the two-day meeting, some Western media focused on the call of the Chinese top leader to "build a solid security barrier" around the country's internet, highlighting the priority of safeguarding security with a concept of covering both traditional and non-traditional areas. 

"Cybersecurity is not only about the security of cyber communication but also about the security of data, in addition to high-level dependence on the digital technology that could bring more potential risks," Tang Lan, director of the Center for Cyberspace Security and Governance Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times on Sunday. 

Currently, cyberspace has become a main battlefield for the rivalry between major powers, including cyberattacks vs cyber defenses, technical standards and tech control, which make cybersecurity issues more complex and prominent, Tang said. 

While many critical infrastructure such as high-speed rail and financial transactions are reliant on digital technology and informatization, the importance of network and data security have been put under the spotlight, especially when new technologies such as artificial intelligence have brought new challenges to cybersecurity, experts said. 

Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, China has accelerated its efforts to boost self-reliance and strength in science and technology while strengthening the law-based governance of cyberspace, Xi said, adding that new strides have been made in boosting China's strength in cyberspace.

"The security of technology is prominent as Chinese companies are facing bottlenecks in some high-tech sectors. For example, although we use open source GPT technologies, we still lag behind in some hardware and chipsets with some core technologies still in the hands of other countries," Zhu Wei, vice director of the Communication Law Research Center at the China University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times on Sunday. 

Also, some cross-border data transactions related to the critical defense infrastructure and people's livelihoods are important parts of cybersecurity and national security, Zhu said.

As for cybersecurity, Xi stressed that "without ensuring cybersecurity, we cannot safeguard national security; without promoting IT application, we cannot realize modernization."

"On the international stage, as we now see cyberattacks in the Russia-Ukraine conflicts, and those from the US and NATO, China could be a main target of US cyberattacks as it takes us as the No.1 'cyber threat,'" Tang said, noting that these geopolitical factors bring new challenges for cyber defense lines, especially when some fundamental technologies are dominated by the US-led West. 

Xi's guidance 

Xi said in his instruction that vigorous efforts should be made to advance the high-quality development of cybersecurity and informatization undertakings and make new achievements in boosting China's strength in cyberspace, thus making new contributions to building a modern socialist country in all respects and advancing national rejuvenation on all fronts.

On Tuesday, a book featuring the thought of Xi Jinping on boosting China's strength in cyberspace was published by the People's Publishing House, which provides a summary of the CPC's experience regarding cyberspace regulation and a guide for developing cybersecurity and informatization.

Under Xi's guidance, a series of major decisions and measures involving cyber development were introduced and put into practice.

For example, a special campaign named "Operation Qinglang" to create a healthier internet ecosystem in China was launched over the past few years with a series of activities taken under its auspices. 

Most recently, China's top public security and cybersecurity authorities launched a campaign to combat online rumors, starting on Saturday through July 21, in an effort to create a harmonious and clean online environment. It has already punished 373 accounts for spreading false information targeting China's stock market and social security policies.

Meanwhile, China has taken accelerated efforts to promote cyber legislation by promulgating more than 140 laws on cyberspace since 1994, forming a cyber legislation framework with the Constitution as the foundation, supported by laws, regulations and rules, endorsed by traditional legislation, and underpinned by specialized cyber laws, according to a white paper titled "China's Law-Based Cyberspace Governance in the New Era" released by the Chinese government in March. 

Cai Qi, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and a member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee, said during the meeting that China needs to strengthen the positive online publicity and guidance, guard against network ideological risks, improve the effectiveness of comprehensive network governance, form a sound network ecology, and firmly grasp the leadership of network ideological work. 

"Ideological security is also a prerequisite for national security and the country's stability," Zhu said. "Taking the example of recent riots in France, social media platforms may help mobilizing youngsters to take part in the riots."