Decoding China’s World Internet Conference

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The China World Internet Conference, also known as the Wuzhen Summit, is a state-run conference where bigwigs in China's tech industry used to gather, party and tout their grand ideas and growth strategies. The conference, in its eighth year, has reliably offered a look at Beijing's particular vision of global internet governance and digital sovereignty. With China's digital economy now making up 38.6 percent of the country's GDP, at a value of $6.07 trillion, the 2021 internet summit put particular emphasis on cybersecurity, digital governance and tech firms' social responsibilities. This includes:

  1. Stepped-up cybersecruity & digital governance: Communist Party Chairman and President Xi Jinping talked up China's resolution to "build a strong digital security barrier." A forum on cybersecurity technology and international cooperation focused on building cybersecurity partnerships and consensus with other countries. Among the topics covered at the forum was strengthening the protection of so-called "critical information infrastructure."
  2. Tech for good: Three of Wuzhen's forums looked at tech companies' responsibilities to self-regulate — and donate. Unlike previous summits, where tech executives gathered to talk up their own business strategies and share optimistic outlooks, the big names who did show up this year pledged fealty to Xi's now-ubiquitous "common prosperity" agenda. "Platform companies must address issues of deep government and public concerns, such as corporate governance, user data privacy protection and cybersecurity governance," Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang said.
  3. (Even more) internet control: At a September 27 session, a gaggle of executives including representatives from online gaming giant Tencent and social commerce platform Xiaohongshu pledged to "create a cleansed cyberspace" and to "implement products and services to protect underage users." These were clear responses to the new policy guidelines the Chinese Cyberspace Administration issued that require internet companies to step up their control over online expression, as well as rules designed to intervene in Chinese youth's online entertainment consumption.

Decoding China’s latest World Internet Conference