Advancing Understanding Between the U.S. and China on Internet Issues

Posted by Pamela Passman
Corporate Vice President

The Third U.S.-China Internet Industry Forum (“USCIIF”) concluded last week  in San Francisco, and we greatly appreciate all the contributions from American and Chinese participants as well as the positive feedback we have heard on the event.  We wanted to share a little bit of the thinking behind the USCIIF, and what we think has been accomplished so far.

The US-China relationship is fundamental to the world’s economic situation, and to a host of societal and business concerns – including the Internet.  Indeed, the Internet has proven to have extraordinary potential for transforming the way people work and live, and has raised a variety of issues that a broad set of stakeholders – including industry, government, and civil society – must address.  In many cases, there are strong differences of opinion, and this is no less true with respect to the US and Chinese Internet communities.  The way forward, we believe, is through constructive dialogue to both identify opportunities for collaboration and generate better understanding on points of difference.

The USCIIF is one such effort. Microsoft strongly believes that Internet stakeholders, including the US and China, must take steps to break down boundaries, learn from each other, interact in more collaborative ways and thereby reveal new trends, relationships and solutions.  By fostering an environment for direct and candid dialogue, we lay the groundwork for addressing concrete challenges.

The Forum involves a set of public keynotes, as well as private, off-the-record discussions, and informal networking among senior U.S. and Chinese business leaders, government officials, academics and civil society representatives.  The scope of this year’s Forum was broad, including online child safety, the role of the Internet in economic recovery, identity and authentication online, freedom of expression and privacy, innovation, intellectual property, international cybercrime cooperation and Internet governance. 

In some areas, of course, Chinese and U.S. participants – including Microsoft – have important differences on policy issues, including regulation of political expression online, the pace of intellectual property enforcement and the scope of reasonable limits on foreign market participation. (For Microsoft’s public policy agenda, see here.) We do not contend that engagement alone will resolve these differences, but we are pleased that we were able to discuss these issues candidly and directly.

Indeed, we think the Forum has achieved a great deal by enabling U.S. and Chinese participants to obtain a more nuanced view of each other’s positions.  Many U.S.  and Chinese participants expressed common concerns regarding risks to children from online pornography and violent content.  Some Chinese participants agreed China needs stronger protections for intellectual property in order to accelerate innovation.  And there was broad recognition that the Internet transcends national boundaries, mandating international engagement and discussion to address the policy issues it raises.

In his remarks, Craig Mundie outlined some next steps for the U.S. and China to pursue. We will be reaching out to others in the U.S. and Chinese internet communities, as well as the Obama administration and the Chinese government, to help bring these to fuller development, and to prepare for the next Forum, which will be held in China in 2010.  And of course we welcome your comments and feedback on the U.S.-China relationship and Internet policy matters.

Comments (2)

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