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China Shows Positive Attitude Towards IANA Transition

Observers of IANA transition may have found a remarkably interesting fact that both supporters and opponents of the transition like citing China, along with a small number of other countries, as evidence in favor of their arguments. For supporters, take Larry Strickling as an example, blocking transition benefits China in that it will “intensify their advocacy for government-led or intergovernmental management of the Internet via the United Nations.” On the contrary, opponents led by Ted Cruz think that the US should not “give away control of the Internet to a body under the influence and possible control of foreign governments” like China, as they will “censor the internet internationally.”

The understanding of relating IANA’s technical coordination to censorship is certainly wrong, as Tim Berners-Lee and Daniel Weitzner have persuasively pointed out. By contrast, the pro-transition camp’s arguments appear more plausible. Their arguments imply that China does not like the transition at all, therefore they have to make this happen. It is an unsurprising, even popular idea. In many places, China has been labeled as a stakeholder who at best “dislikes,” and at worst “opposes” the multistakeholder governance process, which is claimed to be the building blocks of ICANN and the broader Internet community.

Unfortunately, these understandings turned out to be misleading or wrong. China has recently extended welcome to IANA transition. In a press conference for the preparation of the third World Internet Conference a week ago, Ren Xianliang, the deputy chief of Cyberspace Administration of China (which oversees Internet governance) said that China welcomes US government’s decision to relinquish its oversight of the critical Internet resources. Mr. Ren emphasized that China has given high-level attention to Internet development and Internet governance. In addition, China has consistently advocated constructing a cyberspace that features being peaceful, secure, open and cooperative. Wishing a smooth transition, Mr. Ren believed that the transition would have positive impact on the internalization of the critical resources management and on bridging the digital gap between the developed and developing countries.

I am not in the position to elaborate too much about the policy implication of Mr. Ren’s remarks. However, the positive attitude from high-profile authority at least sends a clear signal that China is not standing as a hurdle in the transition. I believe that it will encourage the Chinese Internet community to be more actively participating in the post-transition ICANN affairs and more broadly, in the global Internet governance discussions.

By Jian Chuan Zhang, Senior Researcher at KNET and ZDNS

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