China’s Internet Security _Dichotomy of National Security and Human Rights in Relations to the US
SECURITY: DICHOTOMY OF
NATIONAL SECURITY AND
HUMAN RIGHTS IN
RELATIONS TO THE UNITED
By Emily Vo
The definition of national security refers to the
protection and defense of a country both
domestically and internationally. National
security in modernity moves beyond the
physical protection of land but has to be
examined on a broader scope with the use of
Internet security is a key role in the discourse of human rights, freedom of
speech, and privacy against the backdrop of protecting national security.
Growing countries such as Vietnam and other Southeastern Asian
countries is following on a similar path as The People’s Republic of China
(PRC, “China”) in regards to their Internet policies and restrictions. The
focus on what I’m researching is that national security comes into conflict
with the global agenda for Internet freedom.
So what exactly is the global agenda for the Internet?
The key priority for the Internet now is to ensure that both the legislative and
public spheres understand the advantages and disadvantages of the Internet.
Legislators has to be able dispersed the skeptical distrust of the public to the
government’s role in monitoring the Internet. The public should have to access to
examples in the real world of Internet security for them to engage in discussion.
It is essential to consider alternative models of Internet governance to fully
appreciate how the Internet might evolve in the future
-Global Agenda Council on the Future of the Internet 2013
Aspects of Internet Security
“We often talk about security with respect to
computers and computer networks as though it were
a clearly defined, monolithic concept. It’s not; security
has several aspects, and, in differing contexts…or
some varying combination.” –Barry Leiba
Availability: Is the system available when it’s needed?
Authentication: Who am I, and how can I prove it?
Authorization: What am I allowed to do?
Access Control: What data am I allowed to access,
change, create, delete?
Confidentiality: Are communications and data safe
from unauthorized viewing?
Integrity: Are communications and data safe from
Research Objectives and Questions
Since the Internet is borderless, is it necessary to create boundaries to determine if
such cyber usage is a threat to national security? International boundaries and
Following suit of China, the lockdown on the Internet is seen as national security
and promoting national unity, but is it another infringement on human rights in
Both countries recent aggressions toward activists, bloggers, and dissidents online
are creating a dialogue about the sensitivity of the cyber communication and rights.
Is the heavy monitoring of the Internet and suppression of freedom of expression
going to deter the growing relations between Vietnam and China with the United
What about its’ neighboring ASEAN community? Is their policy on non-interference
going to differ from the interaction between them and non-ASEAN countries
significantly from the United States?
Will allowing PRC’s government to control Internet security and locking down
freedom of speech of its’ citizens going to create a similar domino effect to other
neighboring countries with similar regimes?
Is this going to strain economic tides between PRC and the US? Is it different to
China’s economic relations with Asian countries?
OpenNet Initiative: Global Internet Filterning Map
With over 1.3 billion citizens, China has one of the biggest
populations for Internet users. Yet, their citizen has a limited
amount of access of information and opinions if it is seen as
detrimental to the country’s security and future.
The Internet was first allowed to the public in 1996, with 20 million
users in 2001, and to over 200 million users in 2008. While Chinese
citizens has access to Internet technology such as video websites,
social networking, email, etc. it is still immensely limited in regards
to any providers outside of China. Most are government owned.
Chin’s reason for Internet controls is about limiting pornography,
gambling, and other damaging practices, but these matters is easier
to monitor than online information from political groups. The
Communist Party considers any information or discussions about
the government and human rights in China to be threatening its
China’s Goal Regarding the Internet:
In 2009, the State Council Office issued its first
“National Human Rights Action Plan of
China.” The goal being that the “state will
take effective measures to develop the press
and publications industry and ensure that all
channels are unblocked to guarantee citizens’
rights to be heard.”
Information Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, National Human Rights Action Plan of China (2009 – 2010),
2009, http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-04/13/content_11177126.htm .
Blogging about political issues and criticizing the government in China has resulted
in major cases regarding dissidents in and out of the country has risen in the last few
Blogging about the government is also prohibited in the country, the Chinese
“government has one of the most rigorous Internet censorship systems, which relies
heavily upon cooperation between the government and private Internet companies”
(Lum, Figliola, and Weed 2012: 1).
Hu Jia, a well- known human rights activist and winner of the European Sakharov
Prize for Freedom of Thought, was sentenced to three and a half years in prison in
Huang Qi, an outspoken human rights activist, was detained in July 2008 on charges
of “illegal possession of state secrets” for posting criticism of Sichuan earthquake
relief efforts on his website.
Liu Jin, a former university librarian, in November 2008 was sentenced to three years
in prison in Shanghai on charges of “using a heretical organization to undermine
implementation of the law” after she downloaded information about the Falun Gong
from the internet and passed it to others.
Liu Xiaobo, Nobel Peach Prize winner in 2010, vocal publication for a political
change in China earned him an eleven-year sentenced in jail
Google Inc. (“Google”), an American (MNC) is a major search engine
that has pulled its services from China in 2010. This action from Google
elicited responses from both the United States and Chinese government
that showed the two countries contrasting ideologies on Internet security
(Tsai 2011: 401).
This demand for Internet freedom is further exemplified by the previous
United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s speech on the
implementation of the United States foreign policy on global Internet
freedom (Welch 2011: 65). Regarding this policy Clinton has stated the
United States’ position as “we stand for a single Internet where all
humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas and we recognize
that the world’s information infrastructure will become what we and
others make of it” (Clinton 2010).
Predictably, many countries such as China and the Middle East (i.e.
Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Syria) have taken to criticize that the Internet
freedom policy as a major opposition to their countries’ sovereignty
(Welch 2011: 67).
Relations to the US
According to Yannakogeorgos (2012: 108), the
emergence of China’s economic power plays a
heavy role in the relationship between the country
with the US. Primarily, due to the US’s reliance on
China as a manufacture for many of its’
technological components. Many US
policymakers have been weary with the US’s
problematic call for Internet freedom but its
inability to regulate China’s censorship because
“strategic goods rely on governments to adopt
trade policies…but states do place restrictions on
what may be exported” (2012: 110).
Some big stakeholders for the Internet,
including the Internet Corporation for
Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN),
World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), and
Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) has
heavily criticized the US for the NSA scandal,
condemning pervasive government
surveillance and calling for an international
governance for the Internet and its framework.
These institutions are mainly in the US.
Some Debates to Consider
1. While the US is promoting “Internet Freedom” and calling out China
as violating human rights and privacy, is the US being a hypocritical
“big brother” as well?
Recently, there has been a call for the UN to have a larger influence on
the control and regulation of the Internet; of course, the US was strongly
against it. But, post NSA admissions have diminish the US’s role as
protector of the Internet.
Debatable? The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s view on free
speech is that “freedom of expression should be and must be
guaranteed and protected, when they are used for common justice,
common purpose” (2012).
2. China’s Internet ID Policy
China’s legislature has pass a new policy that now requires users to use their
real names to register for Internet access. The discourse on this is weather or
not this will intimidate bloggers and activist to cease or lessen their opinions
on the government and society. Sina Weibo, a major blogging website,
mainly used by citizens to blow whistle on corrupt officials has been asking
users to fill out their real names at the beginning of this year.
Relations with Southeast Asia
China’s internet suppression has diffuse into SEA.
Park (2009) investigates Internet security in Asia
through the international regime theory (IRT).
Through this theory, an effective policy in a
particular area of concern occurs through a “set of
principles or norms” and regime
“indicates…cognitive frameworks or norms that
are tacitly accepted as a global policy agenda”
(Park 2009: 398). Through this concept, the 2003
Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
meeting aim was to create Internet security on a
transnational level with a global policy between
developed, developing, and underdeveloped
countries (2009: 399).
"Many of these Southeast Asian countries -- and we're talking about
the likes of Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia -- are increasingly
copying some of China's techniques and methods to suppress online
freedoms and increasingly into social media spaces, as well.”
- Shawn Crispin, Southeast Asia representative for the Committee to
According to Steve Herman from Voice of America, countries such as Vietnam and
Thailand are beginning to implement new regulations regarding the Internet.
Thailand has more than 15 million FB users, which is more than 1/5 of the
population. Vietnam has more than of 40% its pop. using the Internet (about 12
million on FB).
Thailand: Although theoretically a democracy, the government can “crack down” on
FB users that maybe “like” any references or articles that criticizes the Thai
monarchy. Since Thailand practice lèse-majesté, and anyone can file a charge against
anyone else in Thailand, the Internet is precarious a platform for opinions as in
conjunction with this law it can be an oppressive tool of political repression.
Vietnam: Also just passed a new law, Decree 72, that forbids people from posting
news articles on social media and blogs. Vietnam’s new law requires any posts on
social media to be related only to personal information. There is little doubt that the
Vietnamese authorities will enforce the new laws on social media; over the past four
years, Vietnam already has been engaged in one of the harshest crackdowns in the
world on bloggers posting items on politics, land grabbing, or other sensitive issues.
Source: Joshua Kurlantzick, The Diplomat
Limitations of the Study
Within this analysis there are certain
limitations due to the fact that the topic is an
ongoing debate and has only been analyze
through literature in the last decade or so. This
is also limited in its scope considering that the
major source of information is coming from
Lum, T., Figliola, P.M., & Weed, M.C. 2012. ‘China, Internet Freedom, and
U.S. Policy’, Congressional Research Services, Available:
http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R42601.pdf (Date of access 11
Park, Y.J. 2009. ‘Regime Formation and Consequence: the Case of Internet
Security in the East-Asia Four Tigers’, Government Information
Quarterly, 26, pp. 398-406.
Tsai, K. 2011. ‘How to Create International Law: the Case of Internet
Freedom in China’, Duke Journal of Comparative & International
Law, 21(401), pp. 401-430.
Verton, Dan. 2001. National Security Threatened by Internet, Studies Say.
Computerworld. 05 January. 7.
Welch, C. 2011. ‘Global Internet Freedom Policy: Evolution, Action, and
Reaction’, Internet Computing, IEEE, 15(6), pp. 65-69.
Wilhelm, A. 2013. ‘ICANN, W3C Call for End of US Internet Ascendancy
Following NSA Revelations. [ONLINE] Available: http://
ascendancy-following-nsa-revelations/ (Accessed 02 October 2013).
Yang, K.C.C. 2007. ‘A Comparative Study of Internet Regulatory Policies in
the Greater China Region: Emerging Regulatory Models and Issues
in China, Hong-Kong SAR, and Taiwan’, Telematics and Informatics, 24, pp.
Yannakogeorgos, P.A. 2012. ‘Internet Governance and National
Security’, Strategic Studies Quarterly, 6(3), pp. 102-125.