HANNOVER, Germany—Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in a brief video speech at the CeBIT opening ceremonies on March 15 here, called for new levels of international cooperation in access to markets, and in protection of intellectual property.
Li said that for China to progress in the international marketplace, China and other nations need to form a framework for cooperation. He said that he was kicking off the search for such cooperation by negotiating new levels of cooperation with Germany, starting in 2015.
He was followed by an unprecedented call for international standards for data security by Vice Premier Ma Kai. Ma, who has made news by calling for reduced restrictions in commerce in China, said that for international ecommerce to succeed there must be a guarantee of data security for all users. Ma said that only by having adequate data security will countries be able to drop barriers to trade and technology.
Ma said that security is a concern for all countries, and in a veiled reference to U.S. National Security Agency spying, called for international rules on data security and for the protection of intellectual property for all countries. He said that while China needs to become more open to outsiders it must be accompanied by the respect for the security of all participants.
China has the fastest growing information communications and technology market in the world, he said, and he noted that for trade to become truly international all sides must participate in respecting intellectual property, security and trade.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel responded by calling 2015 the “Year of Cooperation,” pledging to reduce or eliminate state obstacles to trade between Germany and China.
Merkel also announced a new effort to bring broadband Internet access to all of Germany at speeds of at least 50 megabits per second. She announced that the goal would be reached through high-speed wireless connections to rural areas and said that new bandwidth would be achieved through spectrum auctions much like those currently being conducted by the Federal Communication Commission in the United States.
Merkel and Ma called for enforceable rules for net neutrality and openness within and among their respective nations. Merkel said that she is actively working for new European Union net neutrality standards. Merkel also followed up on Ma’s call for global data security standards, saying that security was necessary for global cooperation.
Merkel also called for changes in German and EU laws to allow universal deployment of public WiFi, and called for free public WiFi in public spaces throughout Germany.
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.
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.
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.