China Says its 'Open' Internet Accounts for a Third of Economy

By Faith Magbanua, December 10, 2017 05:12 AM


Reports released in the annual cyberspace conference staged by the Chinese government this week states that China's digital economy accounts to nearly a third of the country's gross domestic product as a justification its strict internet censorship.

As of this year, Beijing has dramatically strengthened its already constricted ruling of the interwebs, but officials and local media have used the fourth World Internet Conference to announce that Chinese cyberspace is "open" but subject to controls for the greater good.

The announcement, unveiled on Monday in the eastern city of Wuzhen by the state-linked Chinese Academy of Cyberspace Studies, stated that China's digital economy peaked at around 22.58 trillion yuan ($3.4 trillion) in 2016, according to conference organizers.

However, based on the reports, those numbers only came second to the United States and accounts for a total of 30.3 percent of the country's overall economy.

The statement measured the global internet growth from a number of factors including industry, capacity, and "governance", China's code word for restrictions.

"China's experience suggests that both factors are stands a critical point, especially to the smooth development of the internet that aims to serve the fundamental interests of the people," the report was stated during the conference in Wuzhen.

The three-day conference, which closed Tuesday, was set up to counter criticisms from western countries of its internet restrictions, which includes blocking Facebook, Twitter and other foreign platforms, and bans on a range of content perceived to be politically threatening to the Communist Party.

Prior to that, China has cracked down even harder this year, which includes endorsing new rules requiring foreign tech companies to store user data inside the country, imposing fresh content restrictions, and making it more difficult to use software tools that allow users to circumvent censors.

Ironically, the Wuzhen attendees from around the globe had enjoyed the unfettered web access during the conference.

Regardless of the criticism, the conference marked the attendance of overseas rights groups, Apple CEO Tim Cook and his Google counterpart Sundar Pichai illustrating the pull of China's huge digital market.

Meanwhile, Apple has come under fire recently for collaborating with Chinese authorities in purging its app store of software such as Skype, that features a secure communication.

To add to that, Google is thought to be looking for an opening to return to China after pulling out years ago in a row over censorship and alleged cyberattacks.

Though both executives seem to have steered clear of any contentious comments in Wuzhen, the company representatives did not respond to AFP requests for further information.

On the other hand, the official estimates emerging from the conference said that as of June 2017 there were 3.89 billion internet users around the world, with 751 million of them in China, Xinhua news agency said.

The growth in China's digital economy has boomed dramatically in recent years due to a surge in e-commerce and the use of smartphone apps for a range of daily activities including ordering food, hailing taxis, messaging and playing electronic games.

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