UK’s cyberspace fears misplaced

While charting the course for improving the United Kingdom's strategic strength in cyberspace, the country's new National Cyber Strategy released on Wednesday also depicts the internet as a battlefield for a war of values and China as a systemic adversary that must be pushed back against.

"Debates over the rules governing cyberspace will increasingly become a site of systemic competition between great powers, with a clash of values between countries that want to preserve a system based on open societies and systemic competitors like China and Russia who are promoting greater state control," it said.

The UK is fully entitled to strengthen its defenses against cyber crimes and support the development of internet-related industries and technologies. But the UK's move to paint China in a negative cyber light obviously echoes the United States' proposal to establish an Alliance for the Future of the Internet at the recently concluded global "democracy summit" in Washington.

In essence, that intended alliance against alleged "authoritarian powers" is to be used as a tool for the US to extend its hegemony into cyberspace by creating divisions in the virtual world and decoupling selected countries from the collaborative pursuit of technological breakthroughs and standards-setting.

With different social systems and understandings of security, it is natural for China to have some differences with the Western countries on security issues, including on how the internet should be governed and regulated.

While these differences could be bridged through consultations based on equality and mutual respect, the West has no interest in finding common ground, preferring to use the divergences as a pretext to fuel the ideological type of confrontation that served it so well during the Cold War.

That the UK is so eager to play a part in the confrontation Washington is orchestrating against China is also evidenced in its sending warships to the South China Sea and joining the US proposed "diplomatic boycott" of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games.

The series of steps London has been taking targeting China show UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's pragmatic recognition that it would be a mistake to seek a "new Cold War" with Beijing has fallen foul of whatever rewards or punishments Washington has promised for loyalty or betrayal of its anti-China cause. "Taking back control" means nothing more than making the UK once more a Pavlovian puppet of the US.

China has never posed any threat to the UK in any sphere, including cyberspace. Unlike the US, whose US National Security Agency snoops even on its close allies in pursuit of whatever advantages it can clandestinely gain.

Antagonizing China will not help the UK advance its national interests in cyberspace. Rather, it will only fan ideological bias and risks dividing the free, open, inclusive internet into what is aptly described as a "splinternet", to the detriment of all participants.