Friday, May 6, 2016

Scott Malcomson - How Russia and China Are Cooperating to Dismantle America’s Dominance of the Internet

Did the Cold War even end?

Moscow and Beijing, deeply resentful of American power, are again finding ideological common cause, jointly aiming at two pillars of the post-Cold War dispensation: a borderless Internet and international civil society. They are doing so on the declared basis of national sovereignty.

Modern nationalism has proved much sturdier than Communist internationalism; besides, the jaded, if not cynical, Sino-Russian approach to globalization has more than an echo of resurgent nationalism in the West itself, not least with regard to the Internet. If this is not quite a Cold War, it is hard to see how such trends can lead, in any way, to peace or to prosperity.

Last Wednesday, the first China-Russia forum on Internet sovereignty took place in Moscow under the auspices of Russia’s government-endorsed Safe Internet League. The next day, China’s legislature passed a law mandating tight management by security organs of international non-governmental organizations. The timing of the events was coincidental but the ideological ties between them were not.

Nationalizing civil society
Russia has long advocated national control of international NGOs. For post-Soviet Russians, the notion that international NGOs could be, in effect, agents of destabilization should probably be dated to the late 1990s and the opposition to Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic. NGOs played an especially prominent rolein the overthrow of Milosevic, a Russian ally.

There was even a theory loosely adopted by some of them: “nonviolent action,” as pioneered by Mahatma Gandhi, refracted through the mind of an American, Gene Sharp, and advocated by, among others, Sharp’s student Peter Ackerman. (Sharp had been to Tiananmen Square in 1989 and co-wrote an account of the last days of the protest there.)

But with or without a theory, the U.S. did indeed see international and many domestic NGOs as advancing its own goals of democratization of authoritarian regimes, free speech and market economics. NGOs might also help the U.S. in the not-so-soft power politics of nation building. In late October 2001, as the U.S. and its allies were ousting Al Qaeda and the Taliban from Afghanistan, Secretary of State Colin Powell said to a conference of NGO leaders, “I have made it clear to my staff here and to all of our ambassadors around the world that I am serious about making sure we have the best relationship with the NGOs who are such a force multiplier for us, such an important part of our combat team.”.. read more: