China vows to protect information security ‘using all means’

China will use all necessary means to protect its information security, including the use of its military, striking a hard line in the country’s first strategic report on cybersecurity.

Zhao Zeliang, director general of the bureau of cybersecurity for the Cyberspace Administration of China, called for a “secure and controllable” internet at a briefing in Beijing on Tuesday. He unveiled a plan to adopt a review process for all domestic and foreign companies for “key information products and services” before they are deemed safe to be sold or deployed in China’s market.

Cybersecurity has been a hallmark of President Xi Jinping’s tenure. International cybersecurity and espionage has become a bigger concern since Edward Snowden’s revelations about US spying; more recently, American intelligence agencies have blamed Russia for hacking and leaking stolen material to interfere with the presidential election.

“China will do its utmost to protect the information safety of the country and its citizens,” said Mr Zhao, who was presenting China’s first National Cybersecurity Strategy Report. The announcement follows the adoption of a sweeping cybersecurity law in November that will require web operators in China to cooperate with police investigations, and in some cases, provide source code and encryption keys.

Any technologies intended for use by the government, Communist Party organs and major industries will undergo extra scrutiny, Mr Zhao said. While he didn’t elaborate on what kind of military response China would take to protect its information security, the report said authorities would “firmly defend the cyber sovereignty of China using all means including economic, administrative, scientific, legal, diplomatic and military ways.”

China has become suspicious of foreign operators and more aggressive about safeguarding its IT systems. At the same time, the nation is home to a sizable domestic criminal-hacking community, which sucks about US$15 billion out of the economy each year, Zheng Bu, an angel investor and former executive at FireEye, told a cybersecurity conference in Beijing a few months ago.

Mr Zhao also said the review process wasn’t designed specifically to limit foreign technology companies’ business in China. Yet when China’s new cybersecurity law was passed last month, James Zimmerman, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, said in a statement that Beijing’s direction worried foreign companies. “The Chinese government is right in wanting to ensure the security of digital systems and information here,” he said, but added that recent measures “create barriers to trade and innovation.”

Tuesday’s report comes at a tumultuous time for US-China relations. President-elect Donald Trump has said he may not support the long-standing One-China policy that recognizes Taiwan and mainland China as part of the same country. China criticized his comments and said they jeopardize the “political bedrock” for the countries’ relationship.

China also called for more global cooperation to prevent cyberwar, according to the report. The government will issue further implementing measures on the cybersecurity law and the control of cyberspace, Mr Zhao said. “China wants an open cyber environment while at same time a safe one too.”


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