"Internet freedom" and "smart power" diplomacy

16:01, January 25, 2010      

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If the double effect is to accomplish access to both moral high ground and pragmatism, then it could be perhaps an easy choice to take the so-called "freedom" to do empty rhetoric.

The United States has lambasted "China's policies to administer the Internet". Of late, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton criticized China's policies on Internet administration and insinuated that China restricts Internet freedom, claiming the unrestricted internet access as "a key diplomatic priority".

In her speech in Washington D.C., Hillary Clinton mentioned China four times and referred to it as among a number of countries where there has been a "spike in threats to the free flow of information." Moreover, she said, Chinese "authorities cut off public Web access entirely to Western region, portion of which they have only recently begun restored."

Hillary Clinton's "network freedom" propaganda or allegation can be said to have the originality: As she advocates for "network freedom", who would dare to oppose it openly? Or whoever will put himself at the opposite of freedom?

This is why she came up with her idea of "smart power" when coming to power early last year. Standing on the high moral ground to peddle "network freedom", it could not only make other countries not disgusting with its interference with their countries, but subjects those being criticized to the low moral ground and appear unreasonable themselves even with reasons.

If the moral high ground is short of real, practical support, however, it can hardly walk on and stand with a foothold eventually. Take for the attack on Google, the United States urged China to make a thorough-going probe but the U.S. should first look into attack problems itself. Not long ago, the largest Chinese search engine Baidu was attacked and the domain name registration service provider was right in the U.S. territory.

Then, let us look at "network freedom" in the U.S.: In order to resist Internet pornography, the U.S. "Children's Internet Protection Act"American authorities have enacted requires all public network resources to curb internet child porn, a serious crime in the country; in order to respond to threats, Pentagon has developed a new type of troops – cyber troops, and also adopted several measures to beef up the military's cyber warfare capacity; shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the U.S. Congress approved the Patriot Act to grant its security agencies the right to search telephone and e-mail communications in the name of anti-terrorism…

It is thus evident that with any freedom, people are not meant to do whatever they want, but they still need the norms of law and order, which constitute the basic premise of "network freedom". On the one hand, you take the rigid control of your cyber and, on the other hand, you ask other countries to establish the network of a free utopia type. So, this cannot but be called the continued application of double standards.

The reality also shows that "network freedom", which has been brought to sell or peddle everywhere, is merely a diplomatic means, an illusion of freedom only.

In the present Internet era, international politics have extended from the geographical space and outer space to the cyberspace, and national sovereignty extended from the territorial space and airspace to the "information frontiers". As the birth place of the Internet and network application, the United States has resorted to the "internet diplomacy" and found it to be the most favorable and useful battleground.

For example, Admiral Gary Roughead, commander of the U.S. navy, has taken the cyber world for a "battlefield"; Defense Secretary Robert Gates issued an order to establish a new military cyber command dedicated to coordinating the Pentagon's efforts to defend its networks and conduct cyber warfare. The command was expected to be fully operational by October this year. Meanwhile, the US defemse secretaru has cited Twitter and other social media networks in the U.S. as the "extremely important strategic assets". The United States in 2002 set up a hackers' web force, the first of its kind in world history and its Defense Department released a "four-year mandate of the mission evaluation report, which classifies the cyber warfare as the "core capability" of the U.S.

If the United States really wants to promote the "cyber freedom", to make the unlimited internet" a "national trademark", and to let people see the internet only "high seas" not "territorial waters", why should it all along grasp firmly the server terminal in its own hands, and then how to explain the high-profile Microsoft announced the closure of Cuba, Iran, Syria, Sudan the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)? Furthermore, as part of an effort to coordinating protests and demonstrations of Iran's opposition forces, noted media reports, U.S. officials have even suggested delaying the update of Twitter server.

Consequently, it can be seen that for the United States, whether be it the "hard power", "soft power" or "smart power", or whether be it the "big sticks of human rights", "democracy exportation" or "cyber freedom", there has always been "the U.S. self-interest behind all these frequently changed or shifted means or tactics.

By People's Daily Online and contributed by ace PD reporter He Zhenhua
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