Related Articles Commentary Paper SIIS Report
Sep 23 2014
Cyberspace cooperation between China and ASEAN
By Zhou Shixin
The first China-ASEAN Cyberspace Forum, with the theme of "Development and cooperation" was held in Nanning on Sept. 18, 2014, during the 11th ASEAN Expo.

Nearly 200 representatives from the Chinese government, business and academia and 10 ASEAN countries exchanged ideas about four topics: "the Internet infrastructure and narrowing the digital divide", "economic development and international cooperation networks", "cyberspace security and network management", and "network information technology in disaster prevention and mitigation applications". The forum is becoming an important communication and cooperation platform for building cyberspace connectivity between China and ASEAN.

Cyberspace cooperation is one of the timely innovations in updating the strategic partnership between China and ASEAN. As ASEAN has become China's third biggest trade partner and China is ASEAN's biggest trading partner, it is imperative that the two sides seek new ways to enhance their already close relations. Just as Liu Yunshan, deputy chief of China's Central Cyberspace Security and Information Technology Leadership Team, said in a congratulatory letter, China "will further deepen exchanges with ASEAN countries in the field of Internet mutual learning, expand friendly relations in the new space, set up mutually beneficial cooperation in new bridge construction, and work together more closely in the China-ASEAN community of destiny" . Cyberspace development will be one of the new growth areas where China and ASEAN countries can benefit from joint efforts and contributions.

Cyberspace connectivity is closely related with physical connectivity in promoting network economic development between China and ASEAN. Cyberspace can be used as an efficient instrument to boost electronic commerce which is leading the trend of economic growth in the new era. Therefore, we find some well-known Internet business executives, such as Charles Zhang, chairman of the Board and CEO of Sohu, Qi Xiangdong, president of 360, Zhu Guang, vice president of Baidu and others also gave their speeches during the forum. For them, cyberspace provides plenty of opportunities for businesses which can enrich our daily lives and create wealth for companies. E-business will make China and ASEAN more integrated.

There are various aspects of pragmatic cooperation between China and ASEAN. Just as Lu Wei, minister of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), said, China and ASEAN can create an information harbor as the trade service platform where all the parties can share information to "jointly promote financial information services, platform construction clearance data, e-ports, disaster assessment forecasting, disaster prevention information systems, geographical information systems and other areas; or a cultural exchanges platform to promote the region's multicultural coexistence and tolerance together". The infrastructure connectivity platform and technical cooperation platform should be established to enhance cross-border e-commerce, facilitate customs clearance, logistics, tourism, and so on.

In this case, cyberspace security governance might be more important for government officials, especially diplomats, though they also pay much attention to the other functions of cyberspace. Good order depends on rule-based governance. ASEAN countries and China have a lot in common in cyberspace governance with the guidance of the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, such as mutual respect for sovereignty independence in cyberspace to ensure internet safety.

It is necessary for all the responsible stockholders to promote freedom of speech and comply with cyberspace order, counterweigh cyberspace hegemony and crimes, and defend the openness and transparency of cyberspace through joint governance with self-reliance efforts. Most of the ASEAN countries are fragile in cyberspace safety, and cyberspace security is a very sensitive issue which requires them to work together to lessen or eliminate the risks of social or economic damage where cyberspace crises are not well managed.

China can implement New Security Thinking in cyberspace governance with ASEAN countries. Cyberspace safety is less like a traditional than a non-traditional issue which transcends and spreads everywhere with no clear boundaries among countries. Therefore, not only governments but also individuals should have a duty to cooperate, because no single organization or country can adequately prevent or counter the threats alone. On the other hand, joint efforts in addressing cyberspace can be conducive to the regional confidence between China and ASEAN countries. Only when all the parties are willing to integrate the cyberspace connectivity can the cyberspace "Silk Road" be built based on the mutual understanding and common identity throughout the Internet.

The China-ASEAN Cyberspace Forum is now under the framework of China-ASEAN Expo, and might be held annually during the subsequent Expo. It can be like the ASEAN Regional Forum Workshop on Cyber Security and other similar forums in East Asia. Cyberspace peace and development can only be obtained through a national or international partnership. China is also trying to build a cyberspace community with ASEAN countries besides efforts to update the bilateral FTA and conclude the regional comprehensive economic partnership with others by the end of 2015. Just as Liu Yunshan said, "As an important achievement of human civilization, the Internet is profoundly changing people's lives, promoting the progress of society, and creating the world's future." All the parties concerned should make good use of every opportunity to further boost profound exchanges in the cyberspace, enhance mutual trust, promote cooperation and work together to build a peaceful and prosperous cyberspace between China and ASEAN.

Source of