China and the United States could strengthen their relationships in cyberspace by promoting consensus, dialogue and trust, Minister Lu Wei, head of the Cyberspace Administration of the People’s Republic of China, told the George Washington University community on Tuesday.
Mr. Wei gave his address after meeting with GW President Steven Knapp and discussing ways China and GW could work together to promote cultural exchanges. In a brief introduction, Dr. Knapp shared that China is an important part of the university’s focus on globalization as outlined in its strategic plan. More than 1,000 of GW’s international students come from China, and there are hundreds of GW alumni currently living and working in China.
Dr. Knapp also explained that GW has committed itself to the critical issue of cybersecurity. The university launched the Cybersecurity Initiative in 2012 to bring together programs across GW in an integrated and interdisciplinary approach.
“All things cyber—from big data to commerce to security— are among the most consequential issues of our time,” Dr. Knapp said.
Mr. Wei outlined the positive impact technology and the cyber universe already has had on China. He described a cyber café in Beijing where young people from all over the world have gathered and created more than 300 successful entrepreneurship projects. He extended an invitation for GW students to visit the café and meet like-minded peers interested in innovation via the Internet.
Zhou Hongyi, the founder and CEO of the software company Qihoo 360, sat in the audience listening to Mr. Wei’s speech. Mr. Wei pointed him out as an example of China’s spirit of entrepreneurship. He also cited businessman Jack Ma and his billion-dollar e-commerce company, Alibaba Group.
“I believe there must be other giants of tomorrow among the students of GW,” Mr. Wei said.
He discussed the progress Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama have achieved while building consensus around several issues at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, and said he hopes the two countries cooperate on the topic of cyberspace. He identified three basic bills that might lead to improved relations in this arena.
The first step, he said, is for China and the U.S. to emphasize “more agreements than disagreements” and find common interests when it comes to the Internet. He explained that many American companies are now operating start-up ventures and other businesses in Chinese markets, since the country has become such a major player in the global economy. The Chinese market, he continued, ultimately helps the development of U.S. corporations.
“We are a common community, and we coexist with each other,” he said.
Mr. Wei added that the United States and China agree on “90 percent” of issues and disagree “only 10 percent” of the time. The countries should not focus on the 10 percent of disagreements, but instead on the bulk of topics they concur on, he said.
He also underscored the importance of dialogue rather than confrontation. China’s 5,000-year history emphasizes harmony, inclusion and benevolence, he said, noting that the United States is a superpower that can easily coexist with China’s expanding economy, one of the largest in the world. It’s critical for the two countries to work side-by-side and talk to each other frequently to avoid misunderstandings.
“I often say we can have disagreements, but we should always have communications,” he said.
Mr. Wei shared how when he first met Dr. Knapp at GW, he immediately felt as though they were old friends—something he attributes to feeling mutual trust in the relationship. Mutual trust is the key to meaningful dialogue in his view. GW epitomizes a trusting environment, he said, for the way it embraces diversity, openness and inclusivity.
Following Mr. Wei’s remarks, Philip J. Crowley, head of GW’s Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication, led a brief question-and-answer session. A member of the audience asked how China and the U.S. can engage in a healthy cyber dialogue after suspending the conversation earlier this year.
“What I can tell you is that I am here,” he said. “And what that means is I have actually already started the dialogue.”