Reports that President Xi Jinping is heading up a new central Internet security and informatization leading group are garnering considerable buzz among China watchers. According to Xi, “The group is designed to lead and coordinate Internet security and informatization work among different sectors, as well as draft national strategies, development plans and major policies in this field….”
That Xi himself is heading the group—and is joined by two other members of the Politburo Standing Committee—indicates that this new body might have serious heft. What is unclear at this point is to what extent the group is aimed at shoring up China’s own perceived vulnerability to cyber-attacks, further cracking down on Internet freedom, or accomplishing other aims. For example, the leading group could help rein in rogue hacking coming from China, though, as warned by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, it is questionable how much of the hacking is government endorsed or even directed.
At a minimum, having a clearly defined, high-level body dealing with cybersecurity could facilitate coordination with other countries, as for example recommended in a Council on Foreign Relations Task Force report that states it “is essential for the leading nations to agree on a set of norms for activity and engagement in cyberspace.”