China’s New UN Internet Proposal Could Resonate with Growing Economies

Justin Sherman is the founder and CEO of Global Cyber Strategies and a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative. Konstantinos Komaitis is a non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s DFRLab and a senior researcher and non-resident fellow at the Lisbon Council. Shutterstock United Nations Secretary General António Guterres recently launched the Global Digital Compact (GDC) initiative, which seeks to reposition discussions about the future of the internet within the UN system. On its face, the initiative seems pragmatic — recognizing calls for government regulation by letting countries, rather than companies and civil society, drive the internet governance discourse. According to the Secretary General’s policy brief, the GDC “would be initiated and led by Member States with the full participation of other stakeholders.” But a new call for the UN to influence the future of the internet comes at a concerning time for the US and its allies— and an opportune time for China. More countries are having “cyber sovereignty” discussions, or conversations about where, when, and how to increase state influence or control over the internet. The motives range from democratic desires for data regulation and tech autonomy to more repressive wishes for content control and targeting of dissidents. China’s submission to the GDC falls on the latter end of the spectrum, and its clear vision threatens to resonate with other countries that seek to advance this worldview. Over the past few decades, Beijing has shaped and structured its own digital vision and strategy under the premise…China’s New UN Internet Proposal Could Resonate with Growing Economies