Tackling Tough Issues through Cooperation, Understanding

Jimmy Goodrich photo

Dateline Beijing:  The United States and China have more to gain from cooperation and dialogue than they do through confrontation and diatribes.  That was the overarching message that ITI’s Dean Garfield brought today to the 7th Annual U.S.-China Internet Industry Forum being held here in Beijing.  Dean focused his keynote remarks at the conference on a number of critical issues facing the tech community in both countries and globally -- cybersecurity, Internet governance, and fair market access.  In each of those areas, he argued, there is great opportunity for growth and achievement, but only if the two global powerhouses can work in greater concert.

Here are excerpts from the speech.  You can access the full set of remarks here.

The U.S.-China Relationship

The continued forward progress of innovation in both of our countries is intimately interconnected.  Both of our countries are major hubs in globally integrated supply chains. The power of the Internet intertwines our futures whether we like it or not.

These are enormously challenging times for our two countries and our industries.  Tensions are higher than they should be.  Frankly, there is too much finger pointing.  Perhaps these words are blunt, but they should not come as a shock to anyone.  Yet, we are here because we believe there is an opportunity for dialogue, and an even greater opportunity to work together toward mutual good that benefits the world.  

To be sure, we have myriad common challenges in the Internet and cyber arenas.  In our interconnected, globally integrated world, the answers lie in competitive collaboration, which can result in solutions that make sense for the United States, China, and the world.  We know the formula for success, and it is not built on suspicion.  It is built on cooperation and understanding, on a willingness to find solutions in partnership.  We are the two largest economies in the world.  It is our responsibility to work out our complex challenges.  While sometimes daunting, too much is at stake to do otherwise.  

Global Internet Governance

It is critical that we get the governance of this technological marvel right.  With the Internet’s present and future seemingly riddled with complex challenges, the solution is perhaps easier than it appears: don't fix what is not fundamentally broken.  Instead, we should embrace and improve the current multi-stakeholder process to help sustain the Internet’s continued flexibility, growth and catalytic power to spur new generations of ICT innovation.  Failure to do so smartly and effectively could endanger the ability of the Internet to drive economic and societal progress.  

We hope China can move to create more effective policies at home that leverage the flexibility and catalytic power of the Internet by reducing regulatory and other barriers that may hinder rather than foster it.   As I mentioned, the Internet is a powerful technology, but even minor regulatory restrictions, if they are not well thought through, can cripple this still nascent technology.

Getting Cybersecurity Right

China’s e-commerce industry giants, such as Alibaba and Taobao, could not have evolved to build one of the world’s largest online marketplaces without access to the most innovative global security technologies.  To ensure continued viability of the infrastructure and growth of our sector, global technology companies are deeply committed to designing and building strong security into the DNA of their products and systems.

In China, we see and welcome some helpful developments related to strengthening cyber crime laws.  This includes strengthening of penalties for cyber crime and new protections for data.  At the same time, we are concerned that Chinese approaches towards critical information infrastructure protection, encryption, mobile smartphone security, and information security standards can diverge from the global best practices for increasing security.  

This has sometimes manifested here in the mandating of country-specific approaches, standards, and technologies.  Some of these policies also require the use of local intellectual property and domestic content.  We feel very strongly that such approaches will not lead to effective cybersecurity protection for China’s networks and consumers.  Innovation simply cannot thrive in such a siloed environment, where obsolete technologies tend to get locked in.

Effective cybersecurity in China is, of course, important to our industry, but it’s also critical to China. We count on China’s success.  We trade here.  We invest here.  We operate here.  And because of the interconnected nature of the Internet, we rely on both the United States and China to have secure, robust, and flexible digital ecosystems.   

It is also important for all of our governments to stay focused and clear-headed, and not let rhetoric lead us astray.  Good security, like good ideas, knows no national boundaries. We do not believe that discriminating based on national origin is an effective means of achieving security assurance.  We advocate these same positions with all governments – including in China and in the United States.

Good bilateral cooperation in related areas is real and happening in concrete ways.  Take, for instance, our joint work on the ambitious initiative to expand the Information Technology Agreement (ITA).  This is an important undertaking to the tech sector and we very much welcome China’s recent ramping up of participation to advance this work. If people cannot get access to innovative, affordable tech products that ITA expansion would facilitate through tariff elimination, welimit our ability to grow the Internet and ensure we get the strongest cybersecurity.  We also hamstring global economic growth and job creation.  The U.S. tech industry looks forward to continuing our close cooperation with China to ensure we obtain a commercially significant outcome this year on ITA expansion.

The Critical Need for Global Collaboration

It is no secret the ICT industry is one that is relentlessly competitive.  The constant, never-ending push for innovation is the manifestation of that competitive spirit.  Yet, there are a few select issues where aggressive competition takes a back seat to thoughtful collaboration -- and cybersecurity is one of them.  Governments, too, have their own motivations to compete with one another, but as we have seen from the growth of multinational bodies focused on advancing best practices in cybersecurity and good global Internet governance, effective collaboration is happening and growing.

We at ITI seek to be an enabler of both industry and government collaboration.  In fact, at ITI, we have over the past two years begun deep dialogues with Chinese stakeholders on issues relating to cyber norms, security, standards, and innovation.  We certainly can’t expect to solve all of our challenges through these dialogues.  But we are now two years into such exchanges with key Chinese stakeholders.  And our experience has shown that experts simply agreeing to sit down together for sober discussion has led to a better understanding of the commonalities and differences the United States and China take in approaching these complex issues.  Our strong belief is that mutual understanding will lead to mutually agreed approaches.

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