China’s internet industry second only to US, Beijing-backed study says

Frank Tang

China ranks second only to the United States in terms of internet development and innovation, but among the worst on cybersecurity and industry infrastructure, according to a survey of 38 countries by a Beijing-backed think tank.

The rankings, compiled by the Chinese Academy of Cyberspace Studies, were released on Monday at the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, eastern China’s Zhejiang province, and provide an unprecedented insight into how the country sees its internet development in comparison with other nations.

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The World Internet Development Report rated the 38 countries in terms of infrastructure, innovation, industry diversity, cybersecurity, application and governance, though did not provide its methodology.

“We use standards and take a quantitative approach to reflect President Xi Jinping’s thought on internet governance,” Xu Yunhong, the academy’s assistant president said on the release of the report.

China ranked 23rd for cybersecurity and 27th for infrastructure, with both categories headed by Singapore, which according to the report offers the most stable mobile broadband connections and provides 82 per cent 4G coverage.

In terms of internet development, however, China outstripped the likes of South Korea and Japan to achieve the No 2 spot behind the US. It also ranked fourth on internet innovation and fifth for internet governance.

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China has pushed strongly for a unified cyber governance regime, but other countries and businesses have criticised its strict stance.

Xi highlighted cyber sovereignty at the same event two years ago, calling on nations to respect one another’s internet regulations. Officials have also sought a greater role for China in strengthening global internet governance.

“We should promote the establishment of a multinational, democratic and transparent global internet governance system,” Monday’s report said.

The call came despite China in 2017 being named the world’s worst abuser of internet freedoms for the third straight year by Washington DC-based NGO Freedom House.

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China has once again this year ramped up its efforts to censor and monitor online news outlets and social media users. The Cyberspace Administration of China said the new measures, which include increased surveillance of messaging apps and tighter controls on the use of virtual private networks, were designed to maintain social order and protect socialist values.

Beijing also this year adopted a new cybersecurity measure requiring foreign firms to store data in the country and submit to surveillance checks. Business groups said the law was harsher than comparable policies in Europe and the United States.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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