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China’s Cyber-Warriors

NEW DELHI – The world now accepts that protecting our atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere – the “global commons” – is the responsibility of all countries. The same norm must apply to cyberspace, which is critical to our everyday life, economic well-being, and security.

At a time when cyber attacks are increasing worldwide, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was right to declare that an attack on one nation’s computer networks “can be an attack on all.” Indeed, the attacks are a reminder that, as a new part of the global commons, cyberspace already has come under threat.

Cyberspace must be treated, along with outer space, international waters, and international airspace, as property held in common for the good of all. And, like ocean piracy and airplane hijacking, cyber-crime cannot be allowed to go unpunished if we are to safeguard our common assets and collective interests.

Naming China among a handful of countries that have stepped up Internet censorship, Clinton warned that “a new information curtain is descending across much of the world.” Her statement, with its allusion to the Cold War-era Iron Curtain, amounted to an implicit admission that the central assumption guiding US policy on China since the 1990’s – that assisting China’s economic rise would usher in greater political openness there – has gone awry.