President Obama acknowledged Dec. 3 that the Chinese exercise of cybertheft is “indisputable.” While he encouraged American CEOs to speak out about China’s behavior, others, such as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, could not be more eager to pander to senior Chinese officials in order to nudge his way into a lucrative new market. Facebook is blocked in China. So when China’s top Internet regulator, Lu Wei, proclaimed in October that he never said Facebook could or could not enter China, Zuckerberg renewed his charm offensive.
The Facebook CEO was photographed showing a copy of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s book of speeches to Lu during his visit to Silicon Valley earlier this month, saying he bought the book because he wants his employees to “understand socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
Why was Zuckerberg’s gesture toward Lu especially concerning? Because China is actively promoting a counter-narrative to the traditional Western notion of an open, free, networked society. China, and in particular Lu, have been proposing the concept of sovereignty in cyberspace, implying China’s ability to control its own Internet, censor information that may threaten the regime, and administer Web traffic within its own borders. China has employed this language in state-sponsored media, in government white papers, in U.N. meetings, and in literature distributed at Internet governance conferences.
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