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The U.S.-China Relationship: More Communication, Less Confrontation

Dateline Beijing: Each day, it seems headlines in China and the United States raise the temperature on rhetoric and lower the opportunity for dialogue. Tensions are higher than they should be, and much is at stake. In Beijing this week, ITI hopes to reverse that trend and open new channels of communications with Chinese government leaders and industry officials. ITI CEO & President Dean Garfield and I are here for discussions on key areas such as trade, standards, and cybersecurity.

Many of the rhetorical jabs are the result of unhelpful policy approaches on both sides of the Pacific. In China, for instance, we continue to face challenges posed by its domestic intellectual property and technology mandates relating to encryption, mobile security, and the Multi-Level Protection Scheme (MLPS).

And in the United States, we have challenges our own. As we discussed on ITI’s blog during the past few days, for example, the recently passed 2013 federal spending bill (the Continuing Resolution) contained a provision barring several U.S. government agencies from procuring information technology (IT) systems made in China pending a security review by the FBI. ITI and a coalition of technology and business groups voiced strong concerns about the unintended consequences of this provision. And, after our advocacy, the White House late on Friday acknowledged this provision of law needed to be changed.

This policy rider is one example of disruptive initiatives happening in both countries, and underscores the urgent need for greater communication between the United States and China.

ITI focuses on bridging communities and promoting mutual interests, and this trip is exactly in line with that role. We believe there is an opportunity for more effective dialogue with China, and an even greater opportunity to work together toward mutual good that benefits the world. Featuring prominently on Dean’s agenda this week is a keynote address on April 9 at the 7th Annual U.S.-China Internet Industry Forum (UCIIF) that will be attended by senior industry and government leaders from both counties.

At the UCIIF and during meetings with key stakeholders, Dean will discuss the importance of getting global Internet governance right, how technology innovation is key to improving cybersecurity, and the need for greater cooperation towards global, voluntary, and consensus-driven technology standards. We will continue to advocate ITI’s long-standing position that cybersecurity policy embrace the reality that product security is a function of how a product is made, used, and maintained, not by whom or where it is made. This is what leads to stronger security solutions.

In our interconnected, globally integrated world, the answers lie in competitive collaboration, which can result in solutions that make sense for the United States, China, and the world. We know the formula for success, and it is not built on suspicion. It is built on cooperation and understanding, on a willingness to find solutions in partnership. And certainly this week will not be the last of our discussions in Beijing. ITI has planned a wide range of technical dialogues to take place between U.S. and Chinese experts later this year.

Dean also will discuss China’s recent moves to take a greater role in the ambitious effort to expand the Information Technology Agreement (ITA), a development we very much welcome. If people cannot get access to innovative, affordable tech products that ITA expansion would facilitate through tariff elimination, we limit our ability to grow the Internet and ensure we get the strongest cybersecurity. We also hamstring global economic growth and job creation. The tech industry looks forward to cooperating closely with China to ensure we get a commercially significant outcome this year on ITA expansion.

There is significant power in innovation. It changes how we live, work, learn, and play. But an even greater power is in communication – in sitting down and talking and developing a genuine understanding of people’s priorities, hopes, and concerns. That’s how we can arrive at solutions that benefit the world, and eliminate misunderstandings that leave progress as an afterthought to suspicion.

Public Policy Tags: Industry Standards, Trade & Investment, Cybersecurity, Forced Localization