Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

17 Jul, 2013

People’s Daily Commentary: ‘Prism’ burns America’s Internet supremacy

Edited and Translated by Zhang Qian

July 16, 2013 (People’s Daily Online) – Finally, Snowden has made his reappearance. Speculation concerning his whereabouts has excited considerable media attention around the world, but this should not become a pretext for avoiding the hard questions around the Prism event. Washington still owes a reasonable explanation to a lot of countries, including China. And Washington is not going to find it easy to control the fallout from Prism – this will spread, and become a new driver for building up the Internet order.

In essence, this event reflects the extension of international relations in the real world to the virtual Internet world. Its more profound significance lies in the growing connection between security in the virtual world and the real world, therefore it also has a profound influence over real world security.

However, no matter how virtual the virtual world is, it will also be influenced by changing trends in the modern world. The Internet cannot survive and prosper while violating the fundamental laws of global development; it must still be bound by the restrictions of the real world. A certain consensus has formed in the process by which international relations have evolved in the real world, and this consensus applies too in the virtual world. The Internet cannot be run according to the law of the jungle; it cannot be abused by a single dominant power, even if that power has the technological means to do so.

While the transforming world order is now in the process of casting off the obsolete standards of the past, the old hegemony in international relations, with its accompanying “winner takes all” mentality where strength determines what is rational, still retains a certain hold. This inevitably tempts some powers with a significant advantage in Internet technology to extend such principles to the virtual world. Not only does this approach create a new chaos in the virtual world, it also poses a threat to the peace of the real world.

In implementing the new Internet order, we must respect the sovereignty and development level of all countries. We cannot allow individual powers to usurp control. These basic principles are not only an inexorable trend in the development of the real world of international relations, they also provide the direction for the development of the virtual world.

There is a competitive aspect in the development of Internet technology, but competition should not be disorderly. Unlike in the fields of trade or economy, the powerful cannot be allowed to use their strength to infringe on the sovereignty and interests of the weak. We need higher technology for the maintenance of virtual world order, but technological advantage should serve for the benefit of humanity and for promoting cooperation – it should not become a tool for consolidating hegemony, or for controlling or taking over other countries.

The Internet security problem is a new challenge faced by all the countries of the world. Making full use of new technology to ensure network security is the core of the problem. Exchanging criticism will not solve the problem; what is required is communication and cooperation to establish mutual trust, out of which will grow the rules that we can obey.

Among the many potential consequences of Prism, a most worthwhile one would be that from now on, no matter how powerful the Internet technology in the United States, its domination of the virtual world should become a thing of the past. But how to turn this principle into reality? How to formulate relevant international rules through the UN? There are still many questions to be asked, and still a long road to travel.