Today’s Second World Internet Conference is aggravating citizens of Wuzhen and also the New York Times, both of which have been barred from stepping foot in the town to hear Chinese President Xi Jinping’s keynote speech in person.
Since the inaugural event in 2014, security for the conference has been amped up considerably, with tourists banned and business owners in the area being forced to shut down and get out for the week.
Meanwhile, the snubbing of the New York Times remains consistent, technology reporter Paul Mozur shadily tweeted:
China's World Internet Conference calls for an "interconnected world shared+governed by all." Yet NYTimes excluded for 2nd straight year.
— Paul Mozur (@paulmozur) December 13, 2015
This is happening, of course, after internet “management” chief Lu Wei defended China’s right to “choose friends” last week.
Mozur and his associates will thus be also missing out on the services of the “Miss Manners” club, aka 43 college students picked from Zhejiang University of Media and Communication’s Etiquette Club to act as hostesses for the conference.
Group leader Shen Xiaoyan admitted to rigorous training for the event, including colloquial English and first aid.
Wuzhen has apparently come a long way since last decade when it was lacking funds for protection of its historical heritage. Over the last decade, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the city about five times researching its development as a tourist spot — and today, it’s hosting the World Internet Conference expected to draw thousands of international tech representatives.
Started from the bottom, now we here.
On to the main event as Xi kicked things off with a keynote speech earlier today, calling for “cyber-sovereignty” for all nations where no country holds a hegemony over international Internet governance models and China’s 670 million Internet users are allowed the “freedom” to voice their opinions. If they don’t want to be able to access Facebook, they shouldn’t be forced to.
As in the real world, freedom and order are both necessary in cyberspace. Freedom is what order is meant for, and order is the guarantee of freedom. We should respect internet users’ rights to exchange ideas and express their minds and we should also build good order in cyberspace in accordance with [the] law as it will help protect the legitimate rights and interests of all internet users.
Meanwhile, Xi also advocated for a global governance system to help “curb the abuse of information technology, oppose network surveillance and hacking, and fight against a cyberspace arms race.” Maybe that’s what that “Great Cannon” is for?
Xi added that all villages in China are expected to be connected to the Internet by 2020 and boasted about how the web has reinvigorated the ancient town of Wuzhen. Some attendees couldn’t wait to test it out:
And foreign journalists couldn’t help but bring up a few points:
— Tomasz Sajewicz (@TomaszSajewicz) December 16, 2015
— Gillian Wong / 黄敬龄 (@gillianwong) December 15, 2015
Who won the debate over China's Internet? Oh, Xi Jinping, I guess. #WIC
— Felicia Sonmez (@feliciasonmez) December 16, 2015
Isn't it kind of weird that all of Xi's Internet metaphors and catchphrases were already used by Lu Wei? Recycling is in?
— Hannah Beech (@hkbeech) December 16, 2015
Too bad they will have some of the slowest and most censored Internet in the world. https://t.co/WrDp5iLTF7
— Edward Wong (@comradewong) December 16, 2015
The World Internet Conference will see attendance from a truckload of very important foreign people, including: Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Massimov, Kyrgyz Prime Minister Temir Sariyev, and Tajik Prime Minister Kokhir Rasulzoda. In addition, founders of Chinese internet corporations Alibaba, Tencent, and Baidu will show — as well as executives from Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Huawei, ZTE, and Didi Kuaidi.
Alibaba CEO Jack Ma.
Baidu CEO Robin Li.
All in all, it promises to be quite the event:
Wuzhen at night pic.twitter.com/TD2quhUo8R
— Dmitry Medvedev (@MedvedevRussiaE) December 15, 2015
By Pinky Latt
[Images via Xinhua / DFIC / CCTV // Video via YouTube]