China Looks to Ramp Up Internet Growth, and Its Controls

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China Looks to Ramp Up Internet Growth, and Its Controls

China’s government has highlighted big data, encryption technology and “core technologies” such as semiconductors as the key elements of its push to grow into a tech powerhouse, according to a new five-year plan released Saturday that envisages the Internet as a major source of growth as well as a potential risk.

Even as it highlighted the need to improve Internet infrastructure to rural areas and unlock the digital economy’s potential, Chinese economic planners called for a more secure and better managed Web, with enhanced Internet control systems, Internet security laws and real-name registration policies.

Chinese officials including Internet czar Lu Wei have played down concerns over what critics have described as China’s expanding Web censorship, saying that it is the Chinese government’s sovereign prerogative and a necessary measure to maintain domestic order.

China’s development plan calls for a better cyber-security approval system and more “precise” Web management to “clean up illegal and bad information.”

The plan also calls for a multilateral, democratic, transparent and international governance system and active participation in international Internet governance efforts.

Premier Li Keqiang highlighted the promise of the Internet, saying Saturday that various traditional sectors, ranging from manufacturing to government to health care, need to connect to the Web and raise their efficiency as part of an overarching national strategy called “Internet Plus.” He vowed to raise research and technology spending to account for 2.5 percent of gross domestic product in the five years through 2020, which he said would mark a “remarkable achievement.”

The five-year plan calls for all families in large cities to have access to 100 megabyte-per-second Internet service and broadband coverage reaching 98 percent of the population in incorporated villages.

At the same time, Chinese leaders, wary of over-relying on foreign technology, will seek to boost China’s homegrown industry and cut down on imports – a strategy that has drawn complaints from trade partners like the United States.

Similar to previous years, when Chinese leaders highlighted industries such as e-commerce as a growth focus, the new draft of China’s development plan specifically elevated big data and cloud computing, relatively new and promising fields that Chinese industry experts view as not yet cornered by US companies that dominate other parts of the technology market.

The plan also calls for China to catch up on “core” technologies such as semiconductors and basic computer parts and software, as well as encryption technology.

China’s campaign to beef up its chip technology has encountered political resistance from the United States. China’s national chip champion, Tsinghua Unigroup, said last month that it would abandon its attempt to acquire a stake in California data storage firm Western Digital, the second deal it has scrapped because of opposition from US regulators who do not want sensitive technology to fall into Chinese hands.

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