CeBIT: Chinese Leaders Call for Security Standards, Global Cooperation
Alibaba founder Jack Ma kicked off the evening with calls for a better environment for online companies. He said that businesses in general should be worried about the fact that most companies based on the Internet (at least in China) had an average life of three years. Security improvements are necessary, Ma said, and even long-established companies need to be worried about the growth of ecommerce. Ma also announced a new secure payment service that he said will compete with Apple Pay. The new mobile payment service will use facial recognition instead of fingerprints. He demonstrated the new technology by buying gifts for Dr. Merkel and other dignitaries present at the event. Alibaba has been widely criticized for selling counterfeit merchandise on its ecommerce site, something that could be problematic if the Vice Premier’s call for intellectual property protection actually becomes a strongly-enforced policy in China.The protests appeared generally peaceful, unlike in previous years at CeBIT. Some of the same protest groups also greeted members of the press and exhibitors in the plaza outside of the Hannover fairgrounds. Other German officials speaking at the CeBIT kickoff event made repeated references to the necessity of greater cooperation with China, on the need for close ties between companies in both nations and in the need for broader economic ties. Officials here pointedly discounted the United States' dominant role on the World Wide Web and said repeatedly that Europe and its 500 million people, along with China and its hundreds of millions Web users, were the forces that would bring the future promise of the Internet to the world. This apparent desire for a global Internet free of U.S. dominance is a growing trend in Europe, and it's a direction that could have a huge impact on business in the United States, where a dominant role in Internet commerce has been treated as a given. Now it appears that Europe and China foresee a world in which global commerce revolves around them with the United States as an important, but secondary player. Regardless of how the future of the Internet plays out, it would seem that a growing attitude of competitiveness here, coupled with regular fumbling of Internet policy by U.S. authorities, is fostering the sense that the time is ripe to challenge U.S. dominance of Internet technology and governance.
Chinese and German officials arrived at the Hannover Congress Center, CeBIT's sprawling exhibition venue, by motorcade. They were greeted by protesters in the park across the street decrying China's human rights record and that nation's censorship of the Internet.