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Xinhua Insight: Sino-U.S. cyber cooperation a much-desired breakthrough
2015/09/16

BEIJING, Sept. 15 (Xinhua) -- Despite disagreements over cyber threats, China and the United States have seen growing cooperation between internet technology companies, which analysts say will provide a solid foundation for better relations in electronic security.

In late September, representatives from the top security think tanks of both countries will make public exchanges for the first time at the International Security Conference in Beijing, according to sources with internet security company Qihu 360, a co-sponsor of the annual conference.

Keith B. Alexander, first commander of the U.S. Cyber Command and former chief of the National Security Agency, will make a keynote speech on global cyber threats and elaborate on U.S. strategy and training.

Chinese speakers General Hao Yeli, vice president of the China Institute for Innovation and Development Strategy, as well as Zhang Li, assistant to the director of the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, will also take the floor to discuss the establishment of a new order in the cyber world and China's outlook.

The plan to hold such an open public dialogue has revealed both sides' sincerity in overlooking past grievances on the topic in order to strengthen cooperation, said a spokesperson from Qihu 360.

"Detecting unknown menaces and better protection will be the world' s future trend in network protection," said the spokesperson.

Scholars from 19 prestigious universities from both home and abroad and 10 domestic research institutions will join cyber security experts from 30 enterprises to discuss a variety of topics during the conference, due to open on Sept. 29.

Jeffrey Bader, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, called cyber security "a new, difficult issue" for Sino-U.S. relations.

Over the past few years, U.S. companies have worried about intellectual property theft by Chinese companies, while China voiced concerns regarding the magnitude of U.S. cyber espionage after the Snowden Leak.

Despite concerns, Bader sees common ground.

"Any sabotage through cyber means will be something very disturbing to the U.S. and China. China doesn't wish to do that to the U.S. and vice versa," he said in an interview with Xinhua.h He said he' d like to see some kind of agreement where both sides commit to take steps and ensure there will be no sabotage of infrastructure.

With Chinese President Xi Jinping's upcoming U.S. visit later this month, Chinese IT researchers hope the two giant e-commerce economies iron out their misunderstandings to create a sound environment for technical cooperation and innovation.

CHINA' S CONTRIBUTIONS

Perhaps one of the best examples of international collaboration on internet security is between Qihu 360 and Microsoft.

This July, Microsoft once again extended a public thank you to Qihu 360 for helping fix five new bugs in the Windows software package. To date, Qihu has received 86 public commendations from Microsoft for contributions to the security of their products.

China's large domestic market is another powerful driver for cyber cooperation as foreign companies look to tap into the country's growing e-commerce in order to boost exports.

More work is also being done by Chinese companies to tap overseas markets.

In March, China' s largest e-commerce platform Alibaba began trial operations of its first overseas data center in Silicon Valley to help provide cloud services to overseas clients, especially those in North America.

Through the data center, American companies are given easy access to cloud services from China and vice versa, Yu Sicheng, Vice President of Aliyun.com, said.

In January, Aliyun' s RDS team was invited to join the WebScaleSQL development group as the first Chinese company to work side by side with companies such as Facebook, Google, Twitter and LinkedIn to improve the MySQL database management system.

The invitation was extended as China and the United States both boast heavyweight Internet companies facing similar challenges, a source with the program said.

"Alibaba has accumulated experience in the development of MySQL and is one of the world' s six biggest users," Yu said, adding that initial cooperation has gone very well.

On Aug. 14, Alibaba was invited as the first Chinese cyber company to join the non-profit Linux Foundation dedicated to fostering the growth of the open-source operating system.

"Joining the foundation will help Aliyun better understand Linux and other open-source software and get more involved in the technological discussions and standardization," said Zhang Wensong, Aliyun' s CTO.

"We would make our best efforts with all other partners to study upon the development trend of future software."

Wu Qian, senior supervisor of Alibaba' s overseas business, said China' s big market has nourished Alibaba and made it a welcomed partner for American companies, including those considered competitors.

Amazon is a good example, Wu said. In March, Amazon opened its first store on TMALL.com, Alibaba's e-commerce platform.

"Through such cooperation, we prove that even competitors can learn from one another and develop together," said Wu.

CYBER GOVERNANCE

Looking to the future, Bader of the Brookings Institute said it is unlikely countries will ever fully trust each other when it comes to cyber security, as each will need to pursue their own interests.

"What is more important is to achieve predictability, to achieve transparency, to achieve a state where we understand what China wants and China understands what we want," he said.

As it takes two to quarrel, making amends in the cyber world also requires efforts from both countries.

"As two major powers in cyber space, China and the United States share extensive common interests while facing common challenges," Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei said at a press conference last week, adding China firmly opposes and cracks down on all types of hackers.

"Cyber security should be an area of cooperation rather than a source of friction."

Jack Ma, executive leader of the Alibaba Group, who was elected one of the three joint chairmen of the Global Internet Governance Alliance in June, proposed emphasis on Internet governance going into the future.

"The absence of rules will be harmful to the Internet. What we should think out is how to respect, how to develop, how to improve Internet and at the same time how to govern Internet in news ways so that it could retain as many people as possible," Ma said while at the Summer Davos in Dalian.

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