Chinese officials called on Wednesday for controls on the Internet to preserve stability, saying its model for cyberspace regulation can be the framework for spawning commercial successes like Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.
The comments, made at the start of the World Internet Conference (WIC), show China is unlikely to loosen its tight grip on the medium even as it has begun a transformation of its economic model.
“This place is crowded with tourists, who are perfectly orderly, and cyberspace should also be free and open, with rules to follow and always following the rule of law,” Lu Wei, China's Internet chief and director of the State Internet Information Office, said at the conference.
Lu was referring to China's eastern tourist town of Wuzhen, roughly 75 miles from Shanghai, which is hosting the three-day conference.
Among those attending the conference were executives from Apple Inc, Facebook Inc, LinkedIn Corp, IBM Corp, Microsoft Corp, Qualcomm Inc , SoftBank Corp, Cisco Systems Inc, Amazon.com Inc, Nokia, Intel Corp and Thomson Reuters Corp.
They already got a taste of China's intent when on Tuesday the Chinese government blocked access to a swathe of websites in what an Internet monitoring group said was a blunt censorship campaign.
With a population of 1.4 billion and 632 million people online, China is a market no one wants to miss out on. But it also has the world's most sophisticated online censorship system, known outside the country as the Great Firewall.
It blocks many social media services, such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and Google, along with many rights groups sites and some foreign media agencies.
China's own Internet firms have seen huge success on their home turf. Alibaba, which made a record-breaking $25 billion listing in New York earlier this year, Tencent Holdings Ltd and Baidu Inc are together worth more than $500 billion in market capitalisation. All three of China's biggest Internet companies were in attendance at the conference.
“The Internet is a double-edged sword,” said State Council Vice Premier Ma Kai at the conference.
“Well used, it's Alibaba's treasure. Poorly used, it's Pandora's box. Cyber security is a shared challenge faced by human society. Effectively dealing with it is a shared responsibility for all governments,” said Ma.