China's push for Internet sovereignty gained momentum abroad after Edward Snowden released information about U.S. National Security Agency surveillance programs. Capitalizing on the anti-U.S. sentiment in other authoritarian countries like Russia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, China wooed developing countries with growing online populations to consider the benefits of control of the Internet.
The success of the Internet in China over the past 20 years shows that successful foreign companies in China respect China's market environment and abide by China's law and regulations. U.S. companies operating in China show that those who respect the Chinese law can seize the opportunity of China' s Internet innovation and create immense value, while those who chose opposition stand will be isolated by themselves and finally abandoned by the Chinese market.
Up to now, ICANN -- although a non-profit organization -- is acting on behalf of the U.S. Department of Commerce and therefore the U.S. government: the same government that authorized the NSA to spy on more or less everyone who is connected to the Internet. Consequently, countries such as China and Russia, but also Brazil, India, South Africa and many developing countries are demanding more say in the governance of the Internet and ICANN.
The IGF is a United Nations forum to discuss a wide variety of issues regarding Internet governance. Unlike many U.N. forums, IGF is attended not just by government officials but also by corporations, non-profit groups and scholars interested in how to handle content management on the global Internet.