Q3/2018 - Chinese President Xi, 5th Internet World Conference Wuzhen

Bejing, 29 September 2018

On 29 September 2018, the Chinese government announced the 5th so-called "Internet World Conference" (WIC) in Wuzhen. The 5th WIC is planned to be held from 7 to 9 November 2018 at Wuzhen’s new conference center. The overarching theme will be "Creating a Digital World for Mutual Trust and Collective Governance – Toward a Community with a Shared Future in Cyberspace". More than 1500 participants from all over the world are expected. Attendants need an invitation to be granted access. The list of last year’s participants includes the CEOs of Apple, Tim Cook, and Google, Sundar Pichai. It was assumed that the two US-American heavyweights attended the conference because of the economic ambitions, Apple and Google are pursuing in China. Most of the governments of the western world had decided not to send any high-calibre representatives. 

No details of the 2018-WIC-program, such as concrete topics or names of speakers of the plenary sessions, workshops or roundtables were given at the press conference. According to the deputy director of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), Liu Liehong, it is intended "to build a platform for China to better connect to the world" with the 5th WIC. The conference is meant to serve as a "New Internet Gadgets and Applications Promotion Salon", which will provide an arena for close exchange of Chinese representatives with international experts. Three reports are planned to be published: 1. a Report on world Internet development, 2. a report about Internet development in China and 3. a so-called "Wuzhen Outlook 2018", which shall describe international development trends for the future in cyberspace. Liu further pointed out explicitly that the 5th WIC conference was also geared to bringing President Xi Jinping’s ideas to life. At the second WIC in 2015, President Xi had submitted "four principles to promote the transformation of the global Internet governance system" and "five proposals to jointly build a community of common destiny in cyberspace". These four principles and five proposals were going to be the focal discussion issues at the 5th WIC, said Liu.

At the 3rd WIC in 2016, an international"Advisory Council" had been founded. One of its tasks was to submit proposals for the conference program. However, the Advisory Council, officially still chaired by Jack Ma (Alibaba) and Fadi Chehadé (World Economic Forum Davos) meets very irregularly. Its meetings are not open to the public. No minutes are prepared and there are no communiques informing about the activities of the Advisory Council. The links to the Advisory Council have been deleted from the official website of the Wuzhen Conference. The final decision concerning the conference program rests with the organiser, i.e. the Cyber Administration of China (CAC).

As in the last years, the 2018-conference will be accompanied by an InfoExpo, which will display the latest technical developments of the Chinese Internet industry in the fields of artificial intelligence, big data, cybersecurity and 5G. A special role in this project shall be assumed by the "digital silk road". The date of the Wuzhen conference coincides with the IGF 13 in Paris, which will start on 10 September 2018.

The Cyber Administration of China (CAC) as the organiser is directly supervised by the President of Peoples’ Republic of China, Xi Jiping. The CAC was founded a few years ago to coordinate the Internet activities of various ministries, in particular the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MITT). The chairman of the CAC has the status of a minister, but the CAC is de facto an institution of the Chinese Communist Party. The first chairman of the CAC, Lu Wei, quickly made a name for himself as the Chinese "Internet Tsar". He also appeared in prominent positions at international events such as the ICANN meeting in London, where he announced China's support for the IANA transition and the multistakeholder model. Lu Wei was also a member of the steering committee of the NetMundial Initiative. In 2016, Lu Wei was released from his post due to corruption charges and arrested. His successor Xu Lin operated more in the background. In summer 2018, there was some reshuffling again. The new head of CAC is Zhuang Rongwen, a former party official. His deputy, 49-year-old Liu Liehong, comes from the business world and was chief executive officer of China Electronics Technology Group Corporation before his appointment by the CAC Director. Liu chaired the press conference to announce the Wuzhen Conference 2018.

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