Sunday, Mr. Wang praised China’s president for his “deep understanding”
of internet governance. He said the international community had “warmly
received” Mr. Xi’s ideas about the internet, including the concept of
cybersovereignty — a Chinese policy term used to argue that countries
should be free to control the internet within their borders, even if it
cyberspace governance has no onlookers — we are all participants,” he
said, adding that “all parties” should have a say over how the internet
is managed across the world.
speech echoed arguments that Mr. Wang has made before. In the 1990s, as
a professor at Fudan University in Shanghai, he wrote that because
China was so large and poor, it needed a stronger hand from the
government to push through economic development. He said that such
authoritarian rule was necessary for China to restore its national
greatness after what the Communist Party has often described as a
century of humiliation at the hands of foreign powers.
has made Mr. Wang a longtime skeptic of calls for China to allow
greater democracy despite his extensive experience abroad, including in
the United States. And while he has said he admires the strength of the
United States, Mr. Wang has also been deeply wary of American power.
speech on Sunday showed how China’s vision of the internet attempts to
wrestle with such tension. Chinese leaders have long lauded the economic
power of the internet, while being deeply cautious about its
democratizing and internationalizing influence.
his speech, Mr. Wang highlighted China’s openness and the need for
equal access to the internet. Yet China has led the way in cutting its
internet off from the world with filters and blocks known as the Great
Firewall of China. It has also blocked internet access in areas where
members of minority groups live, to limit the potential for unrest.
contradictions were evident at the World Internet Conference, which was
dreamed up by Chinese officials who wanted to create a Davos-style conference for technology. It has been held annually since 2014 in Wuzhen, an ancient canal town about 75 miles from Shanghai.
many major foreign websites are blocked in China, the wireless
connections at the conference allowed open access to the global
internet. A promotional video that was shown before Mr. Wang’s speech
showed the web connecting China to the world, ignoring the existence of
the Great Firewall.
the format of his talk, Mr. Wang followed the lead of Mr. Xi. His
offering of five proposals appeared to have been inspired by a speech by
Mr. Xi at the second World Internet Conference, when the president
offered five ideas for developing the internet.
conference also marked a fresh start of sorts for its organizer, the
Cyberspace Administration of China, the government body that also
oversees the country’s internet. Weeks before the conference, the
Chinese state media reported that the administration’s former head, Lu
Wei, was put under investigation by the Communist Party’s anticorruption agency.
Lu’s successor, Xu Lin, was present at the conference, which also
included more prominent foreign chief executives than in the past,
including Sundar Pichai of Google and Mr. Cook of Apple. Analysts say
Mr. Xu has been ordered to consolidate the administration’s power, and
also turn the conference into a higher-profile event.
his speech, Mr. Cook highlighted Apple’s contribution to China’s
economy, saying that Chinese developers have earned more than 112
billion renminbi, or $16.9 billion, by selling apps to Apple users, more
than developers from any other country.
presence of Mr. Cook and Mr. Pichai lends a stronger credibility to a
conference that has struggled to attract top executives from overseas.
It also underscores growing concerns among American technology companies
that a United States government investigation into Chinese trade practices could result in a trade spat, damaging the huge American business interests in China.
An earlier version of this article misstated the age of Wang Huning, the Standing Committee member. He is 62, not 63.