Authoritarian Practices in the Digital Age| The Contestation and Shaping of Cyber Norms Through China’s Internet Sovereignty Agenda

Sarah McKune, Shazeda Ahmed


This article focuses on China as the state dedicating the most coordinated, strategic, and consistent efforts to promoting an Internet sovereignty agenda at home and abroad. At its core, the Chinese case for Internet sovereignty envisions the regime’s absolute control over the digital experience of its population, with a focus on three dimensions: Internet governance, national defense, and internal influence. Through its guidance of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and creation of the World Internet Conference, normative collaborations with Russia and other states, and promotion of Internet sovereignty as benefiting developing states in particular, the Chinese government is advocating for global recognition of the norm over the long term. Yet growing international support for Internet sovereignty could undermine multistakeholderism, transparency, accountability, and human rights, sparking new flash points in ongoing contestation over digital norms.


Internet sovereignty, China, Russia, human rights, digital norms, legal norms, public opinion guidance, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, World Internet Conference

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