Last week I participated in, and delivered a keynote address to, the 5th U.S.-China Internet Industry Forum here in Washington, D.C. It was the third time I have participated in the forum, having traveled to Beijing and San Francisco for two previous sessions.
This event, co-sponsored each year by Microsoft and the Internet Society of China, and to which representatives of the State Department and China's State Council Information Office also are invited, is a key opportunity to engage Chinese counterparts on important Internet-related issues -- such as international standards, intellectual property protection, cyber security and Internet freedom.
This forum is particularly useful because it is energized by extensive private sector participation on both sides. Microsoft's Chief Research and Strategy Officer, Craig Mundie, who was instrumental in the launch of this dialogue five years ago, delivered a major address, advocating compellingly for building stronger U.S.-China partnerships to address shared concerns. China's private sector also was well represented at this year's forum with Baidu's Robin Li, Sohu's Charles Zhang, and Sina.com's Chen Tong among the participants. We believe there are many areas where we can make common cause with these Chinese companies as they develop more innovative products and share some of our concerns about Internet restrictions and intellectual property protection in China.
There also was strong Chinese Government representation. I had an opportunity to discuss Internet-related issues with Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yesui and State Council Information Office Vice Minister Qian Xiaoqian during the forum. I mentioned in my remarks that I was encouraged by China's decision to establish a State Council-level leadership structure, led by the highly respected Vice Premier Wang Qishan, to lead and coordinate intellectual property rights (IPR) enforcement across China. In addition, Ambassador Zhang noted that Chinese President Hu Jintao, in his remarks at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO Summit in Honolulu last month, had publicly made a commitment to “step up protection of intellectual property rights and make China a country driven by innovation.” This will enable China to improve its rule of law to address this important issue.
However, as I also said in my remarks at the forum, we remain concerned about the lack of progress in many areas of U.S.-China cooperation on the Internet. And there are some areas where we feel like we have moved in the wrong direction in the past year. While there have been positive policy pronouncements at high levels that have called for improving intellectual property protection, for example, the reality on the ground demonstrates how far there still is to go. We regard progress on this as vital to our interests -- and aim to make it a top priority in all major meetings at the highest levels of our government. We also believe we have strong allies in other countries and within China as well, as Chinese citizens and corporations develop their own IP.
Also, China's Internet remains too restrictive, with negative repercussions for economic and social development and also for human rights. And there is serious and growing concern in the United States about cyber attacks.
We want China to understand that just as Secretary Clinton emphasized in her speech on Internet freedom, “...[T]here isn't an economic Internet and a social Internet and a political Internet; there's just the Internet.” If a government tries to create an online environment that is closed or fractured -- where it can block activity for one purpose or change the rules for another -- the costs are high and cumulative. Education, innovation, research, creativity, entrepreneurship, investment, and growth will all eventually suffer. We believe that over the long-term, progressive societies with a strong rule of law to facilitate and enable a free flow of information will be more stable, secure, and successful.
Through engagements like last week's forum, the U.S. government and private sector will be able to continue to work with our Chinese counterparts to move this agenda forward. There is much at stake for the citizens of both of our countries. Despite the obstacles, we can make progress with China on cooperation in the digital age -- an area that will arguably be one of the most critical aspects of our bilateral relationship in the 21st century. But we have a lot of work to do -- and so does China.