Jointly Build a Community with a Shared Future in Cyberspace and Create a Brighter Future in the Digital Era

By Cao Shumin

In December 2015, President Xi Jinping put forward the vision of “building a community with a shared future in cyberspace” for the first time at the second World Internet Conference, which has drawn wide attention and recognition from the international community. Building a community with a shared future in cyberspace is a concrete embodiment and major practice of the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind and a manifestation of our great interest in the common well-being of humanity and reflects the shared aspiration of the international community. It contributes China’s wisdom and approach to the development and global governance of Internet. 


The world is witnessing the combined impacts of major changes and the COVID-19 pandemic, both unseen in a century. The changes of the world, of our times and of history are unfolding in ways like never before. The information revolution is a defining feature of our times. Human society is in a new stage of digital development and transformation, digital, network and smart technologies are reshaping all aspects of economic and social life, transforming the way people produce and live. With the continuous innovation and mutual embedding of big data, artificial intelligence, 5G, industrial Internet and other technologies, cyberspace and physical space are highly integrated. The new generation of digital technology is playing an increasingly important role in epidemic prevention and control, economic recovery, energy conservation and emission reduction, and poverty alleviation. As a new common homeland for human beings, cyberspace has created an unprecedented opportunity for the progress of human civilization. 

In the meantime, such problems as unbalanced development, inadequate rules and inequitable order in the field of the Internet have become more prominent. Hegemony and power politics in cyberspace have become more evident. Protectionism and unilateralism keep reering their heads. The digital divide among countries and regions is widening. The global system of basic Internet resources management fails to reflect the aspirations and interests of the majority of countries. Personal privacy infringement, racism dissemination, spread of disinformation, Internet fraud, cyber terrorism and other illegal and criminal activities have become a global sourge. Cybersecurity, geopolitics and traditional security threats are intertwined, bringing new challenges to global security and stability. In particular, some countries recently launched the so-called “Declaration for the Future of the Internet”, which creates divisions and incites confrontation, hindering the efforts of the international community to promote global governance in cyberspace. 

Building a community with a shared future in cyberspace has become an imperative to answer the call of the information age and address the risks and challenges in cyberspace. It is also a sure path to enhance solidarity and collaboration, uphold fairness and justice, and share digital dividends.

Rich Connotations

President Xi Jinping’s vision for building a community with a shared future in cyberspace has rich connotations and contains profound insights. It comprises four principles, five propositions, and four joint actions.

To build a community with a shared future in cyberspace, the following four principles should be upheld: Respecting sovereignty in cyberspace. The principles and spirit of the UN Charter should also apply to cyberspace. The right of individual countries to choose independently their own path of cyber development, model of cyber regulation, Internet public policies and equal participation in international cyberspace governance should be respected. No country should pursue cyber hegemony, interfere in other countries’ internal affairs or engage in, connive at or support cyber activities that undermine other countries’ national security. Upholding peace and security. Cyberspace should not become a battlefield for countries to wrestle with one another, still less should it become a hotbed for crimes. All countries should make joint efforts to prevent and oppose the use of cyberspace for criminal activities. No double standards should be allowed in upholding cyber security. We cannot just have the security of one or some countries while leaving the rest insecure, still less should one seek the so-called absolute security of itself at the expense of the security of others. Promoting openness and cooperation. To improve the global Internet governance system and maintain the order of cyberspace, we should firmly follow the concept of mutual support, mutual trust and mutual benefit and reject the old mentality of zero-sum game or “winner takes all”. All countries should advance opening-up and cooperation in cyberspace and further substantiate and enhance the opening-up efforts. We should also build more platforms for communication and cooperation and create more converging points of interests, growth areas for cooperation and new highlights for win-win outcomes. Efforts should also be made to advance complementarity of strengths and common development of all countries in cyberspace so that more countries and people will ride on the fast train of the information age and share the benefits of Internet development. Building a sound order. Cyberspace is not a place beyond the rule of law. We should abide by the law, with the rights and obligations of parties concerned clearly defined. Cyberspace must be governed, operated and used in accordance with law, so that the Internet can enjoy sound development under the rule of law. In the meantime, greater efforts should be made to strengthen ethical standards and civilized behaviors in cyberspace. We should give full play to the role of moral teachings in guiding the use of the Internet to make sure that the fine accomplishments of human civilizations will nourish the growth of cyberspace and help rehabilitate cyber ecology.

To build a community with a shared future in cyberspace, the international community step-up strengthen communication, broaden consensus and deepen cooperation in five respects: 

Speeding up the building of global Internet infrastructure and promoting inter-connectivity. Financial investment must be increased and technical support should be stepped up to jointly promote the building of global digital infrastructure and enable more developing countries and people to share the development opportunities brought by the Internet. 

Building an online platform for cultural exchange and mutual learning. We should leverage the strength of the Internet as a communication platform, so that people of other countries will come to know more about China’s fine culture and the Chinese people will learn more of theirs. Together, we will promote the prosperity and development of cyber culture, which will enrich people’s mind and thinking, and advance human civilization and progress. 

Promoting innovative development of cyber economy for common prosperity. Cross-border e-commerce should be developed to boost investment and trade worldwide and promote global development of digital economy. 

Maintaining cyber security and promoting orderly development. All countries should work together to contain the abuse of information technology, oppose cyber surveillance and cyber attacks and reject arms race in cyberspace. We should push for the formulation of international cyberspace rules accepted by all parties as well as an international convention against terrorism in cyberspace, improve the legal assistance mechanism to fight cyber crimes and jointly uphold peace and security in cyberspace. 

Building an Internet governance system to promote equity and justice. The mechanism of dialogue and consultation on cyberspace should be improved and global Internet governance rules developed, so that the global Internet governance system becomes more fair and reasonable and reflects in a more balanced way the aspiration and interests of the majority of countries.

The building of a community with a shared future in cyberspace requires a global governance approach featuring extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. Joint efforts are needed to promote development, maintain security, participate in governance, and share outcomes, so as to build cyberspace into a community of common development, security, responsibility and interests benefiting all humanity. President Xi Jinping called on the international community to join hands to seize opportunities and meet challenges by complying with the trends of informatization, digitization, net working and smart development. China is ready to work with other countries in the world to seize the historical opportunity of the information revolution, cultivate new drivers for innovation and development, open up new prospects for digital cooperation, create a new pattern for cyber security, build a community with a shared future in cyberspace, and join hands to create a brighter future for mankind. 

China’s Practice

As a responsible major country of Internet development, China firmly follows the path of peaceful development, pursues a win-win strategy of opening up, upholds the sovereignty, security and development interests of all countries in cyberspace, actively participates in the process of international governance in cyberspace, builds platforms such as the World Internet Conference, keeps deepening international exchanges and cooperation in cyberspace, and actively promotes the building of a community with a shared future in cyberspace. China has played a positive role in pooling consensus and exploring practices for the international community. 

I. Leveraging the strength of digital technologies to enhance global connectivity 

Improving Internet access. China is actively promoting global Internet access. The African optical cable backbone network project with the participation of Chinese enterprises has helped African countries establish high-speed digital information channels. It is the Chinese position that Internet access and connection should be expanded by exploring acceptable means on the premise of respecting sovereignty in cyberspace and Internet policies of all countries, so that more developing countries and people can share the development opportunities brought about by the Internet.

Advancing digital infrastructure construction. China has adopted a proactive, inclusive and coordinated policy that benefits all to speed up global digital infrastructure construction. Chinese enterprises support the construction of 5G networks in many countries and actively carry out international cooperation in 5G innovation and development. China calls for joint efforts to improve digital infrastructure construction, operation and service, support the development of 5G, Internet of Things and industrial Internet, and create new drivers of economic growth. 
Using digital technology to improve public service capacity. China is actively using digital technologies to help the world combat COVID-19. Public products such as the epidemic forecasting information platform developed by China have played a positive role in helping countries prevent and control the epidemic. China calls for experience sharing  and cooperation in using digital technologies to manage public emergencies such as epidemics and natural disasters, so as to improve public service capacity. 

II. Promoting global development of digital economy through innovation empowerment

Boosting integration of digital economy and real economy across the world. China has actively promoted the process of industrializing digital systems and digitalizing industries across the world. Since 2016, China has established bilateral e-commerce cooperation mechanisms with 22 countries on five continents. China is actively carrying out international cooperation in cloud computing and calls for joint efforts to improve digitalization and promote the integration of the digital economy and the real economy in a wider scope, at a deeper level and with higher standards. 

Taking an active part in multilateral digital economy governance. China has actively participated in digital economy governance cooperation under multilateral mechanisms, putting forward such initiatives as “Digital and Green Coordinated Transformation and Development” at APEC, and promoting the adoption of the G20 Digital Economy Development and Cooperation Initiative. China calls for maintaining and improving the multilateral governance mechanism of digital economy and working together to create an open, fair, just and non-discriminatory environment for digital development. 

Deepening bilateral practical cooperation in the digital economy. China shares opportunities for the development of the digital economy with other countries and promotes innovation and cooperation in the digital economy. The 23rd China-ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting issued the Initiative on Building China-ASEAN Partnership on Digital Economy. China, together with other countries, jointly launched “The Belt and Road” Digital Economy International Cooperation Initiative. China stands ready to expand digital economy cooperation with countries around the world, so that the fruits of digital economy development can benefit people all over the world.

III. Working with the international community to maintain cyber security in an open environment

Strengthening the protection of information infrastructure. China has actively carried out cyber security emergency response cooperation, stepped up the protection of information infrastructure, and promoted the establishment of a “CNCERT international cooperation partnership”. China calls on the international community to strengthen cooperation in early warning and prevention, information sharing and emergency response, actively exchanges experiences on the protection of critical information infrastructure, and opposes the use of information technology to damage critical information infrastructure or steal important data in other countries. 

Enhancing personal information protection and data security management. In an open and inclusive manner, China promotes global data security governance and cooperation in personal information protection. In September 2020, China launched the Global Initiative on Data Security. China supported the discussions on the protection ofChina’s Practice the right to privacy at the United Nations General Assembly and the Human Rights Council and promoted the establishment of the principle of personal privacy protection in cyberspace. China calls on the international community to further strengthen exchanges and cooperation in data security and personal information protection, demanding that enterprises shall not pre-install backdoors or malicious codes in information technology equipment and not steal users’ data while providing products and services.
Combating cybercrimes and cyberterrorism. It is the shared responsibility of the international community to combat cyberterrorism and cybercrime. China has made important contributions to the adoption of the UN resolution on launching negotiations on a United Nations Convention against Cyber Crimes. China has actively participated in BRICS Counter-Terrorism Working Group meetings to share experience in combating cyberterrorism. China advocates further improving the mechanism for combating cybercrimes and cyberterrorism, and supports and actively participates in the negotiation on a UN convention on combating cybercrimes. 

IV. Deepening international cooperation and working towards a more just and reasonable global internet governance system

Leveraging the main-channel role of the UN in international cyberspace governance. All countries have the right to participate in the development of international order and rules in cyberspace on an equal footing. China has taken a constructive part in the UN Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) and the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) to promote adoption of the final reports of OEWG and GGE. China advocates the formulation of generally accepted rules, norms and principles for responsible state conduct in cyberspace under the UN framework and on the basis of international law and basic norms of international relations, including the UN Charter. 

Improving the international governance mechanism based on benefit sharing and co-governance. All stakeholders should play their roles in international cyberspace governance. Since 2014, China has held eight sessions of the World Internet Conference to build an international platform for connectivity between China and the world, and a Chinese platform for Internet sharing and co-governance. China actively participates in platforms such as the United Nations Internet Governance Forum, the International Telecommunication Union, G20 and APEC. China-UK Internet Round Table, China-Germany Internet Economic Dialogue, China-ASEAN Information Harbor Forum, China-Africa Internet Development and Cooperation Forum and other activities have been held. China will support and promote the joint participation of governments, international organizations, enterprises, technology communities, social organizations and individual citizens in international cyberspace governance. 

Promoting equal participation in the management of basic Internet resources. The management system of basic Internet resources is the cornerstone of Internet operation. China actively participates in the activities of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), supports the reform of the ICANN governance mechanism, and promotes the internationalization of basic Internet resources management. China advocates protecting the availability and reliability of basic Internet resources for each country, promoting joint management and fair distribution of basic Internet resources by the international community, and making the technical system of core Internet resources, including the domain name system, more secure, stable and resilient, so as to ensure that it does not pose a threat to the country code top-level domain names of other countries because of the geopolitical jurisdiction. What is more, the service should not be interrupted or terminated due to any political or human factors. 

V. Bridging digital divide and promoting inclusive development of shared benefits
Strengthening support and assistance to the vulnerable groups. Committed to putting people first and technology for  good, China strengthens support and assistance to vulnerable groups, so that all can benefit from the development of the Internet. In June 2021, China held an APEC Workshop on Inclusive Digital Society to promote the exchange and sharing of experiences on Internet-enabled targeted poverty alleviation. China calls for the improvement of digital literacy and skills of the public, and encourages the development of digital products and services suitable for the elderly, the disabled, women and young people. 

Strengthening cyber cultural exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations. China respects the diversity of cyber cultures and actively carries out online cultural exchange activities. We advocate all countries to tap their own excellent cultural resources to carry out internet-related exchanges and cooperation as well as mutual learning among civilizations, join hands to tackle false information online, enhance cyber ecology governance, and jointly build a sound cyberspace with high moral and ethical standards.

A single flower does not make a spring, while one hundred flowers in full blossom bring spring to the garden. China has always been a builder of peace, a contributor to development and a defender of order in cyberspace. The development of China’s Internet and information industry will not only benefit the Chinese people, but also contribute to the global Internet security and development. Looking to the future, China will follow the guidance of the vision of building a community with a shared future in cyberspace, uphold high the banner of peace, development, cooperation and mutual benefits, work with the international community to firmly safeguard unity and cooperation in cyberspace, advocate respect for cyber sovereignty, speed up the development of the digital economy, actively create an open, fair, just and non-discriminatory environment for digital development, and strengthen practical cooperation in the protection of critical information infrastructure. China will work towards a fair and open management system of basic Internet resources, deepen international cooperation in combating cybercrimes and cyberterrorism, promote the safe and free flow of data across borders, expand cooperation in cyber ecology governance, and promote exchanges and mutual learning of cyber civilization. China will strive to make the fruits of Internet development benefit the entire humanity, seize opportunities, meet challenges, and jointly create a brighter future for mankind.

Cao Shumin is Vice Minister of the Cyberspace Administration of China.