Russian president Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping have set themselves the goal of dominating the world of information technology.
The two despots met earlier this week and have since issued a document titled the “Joint Statement between the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation on Deepening the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of Coordination in the New Era.”
Putin’s statement about the meeting includes the following:
Technological sovereignty is the key to sustainability. We propose further improving strategic partnerships in specific industries. By combining our wealth of research capacity and industrial capabilities, Russia and China can become world leaders in information technology, cyber security, and artificial intelligence.
And maybe they can. But the rest of the world may never recognize it, as appetite to acquire Russian and Chinese tech outside the two nations and their small circle of allies is not vast.
The two are nonetheless going to have a go.
The full text [in Chinese] of the Joint Statement promises that the two nations will “explore new cooperation models in technology and industry fields such as artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, 5G, digital economy, and low-carbon economy.”
The two leaders also expressed their belief that “new and responsible national codes of conduct in information cyberspace should be formulated, especially universal international legal instruments.”
They suggested China’s “Global Data Security Initiative” and Russia’s concept paper on the International Information Security Convention as likely to be useful starting points. The two nations also signalled they approve of the United Nations Open Working Group on Security in the Use of Information and Communications Technology 2021–2025 – an open-ended committee that works on norms of cyberspace behavior.
“Both sides support the United Nations Ad Hoc Committee to develop a comprehensive international convention against the use of information and communication technologies for criminal purposes,” the document adds.
Which is nice, given both are credibly accused of hosting – and maybe encouraging – cyber criminals.
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The document also reveals an intention to “support the establishment of a multilateral, fair and transparent global internet governance system on the premise of ensuring the sovereignty and security of internet governance of all countries.”
That’s almost certainly a reference to China’s attempt to create a standard called NewIP that would allow the creation of “sovereign internets” that governments could censor and surveil – just like Russia and China do already. Russia tried to instal an official sympathetic to the idea as boss of the International Telecommunications Union, with China’s support. That attempt failed.
The document also spells out the two nations’ desire for a “multipolar” order, rejects the notion that “democracy” is a superior governance model, and makes clear the dictators “oppose the hypocritical narrative of the so-called ‘democracy against authoritarianism’, and oppose the use of democracy and freedom as an excuse to put pressure on other countries and politics.”
So there you have it: two autocracies planning to work together to build tech the rest of the world is increasingly reluctant to sell them, while also trying to change the rules that govern the internet and acceptable online behavior, and insisting that the repressive philosophies that underpin their vision of those rules must be considered equal to other schools of political thought.
All of which will be helped by increased collaboration on energy resources, sport, the arts, and youth exchanges – to make sure the two nations get along. ®