At the same time as it is consolidating its control over the domestic Web, China is also using its market power to create vulnerability for overseas technology producers. Fearing that they might be shut out of the market, foreign firms give in to demands that they would not consider anywhere else. In 2003, for example, after years of Chinese pressure via negative stories in the press and poor performance in the market, Microsoft agreed to share the source code for Windows with a government-run software lab. In addition, most of the world's IT hardware is manufactured in China, giving intelligence agencies an easy opportunity for inserting spyware at some point along the production chain. Fake chips and routers from China have already showed up in U.S. military and defense contractor systems.
China's cyberaggression doesn't mean that the United States should stop all attempts at engagement. In fact, more should be done to draw Beijing into discussions about the rules of cyberwar. It would be especially good if Beijing could be encouraged into an agreement about what types of hacking -- say, messing with another country's electrical grid -- constitute an act of war. But because China sees itself as the weaker military power, thinks the U.S. military is vulnerable to cyberattacks, and worries about a conflict in the Taiwan Strait, we should expect that both sides will continue to eye each other warily.
In the end, no matter what provisional agreements can be reached, China's behavior suggests that there might be no turning back from a world divided into different types of Internets. The emerging Chinese Internet may be less free, but also distinct in other ways: built on alternate technology standards and populated by proxies such as "patriotic hackers" willing to launch Web attacks in service of state goals. These characteristics could shield the Chinese Internet, giving it greater autonomy from and leverage over the more open, global networks described by Clinton. In the end, the United States might find itself locked in a never-ending process of patching vulnerabilities in a network that will always be susceptible to hacking, espionage, and exploitation.
Although Chinese activities on the Web are grounded in a specific political and economic logic, they are not unique. Iran, Russia, and other authoritarian states have also deployed a mix of technological and political tools to control the flow of information as well as project power across borders. If a strategy built around better defense, multilateral cooperative mechanisms to limit cyberconflict, and efforts to promote American values on the Web fails, we may have to rethink both how we try to influence China and the others, as well as what type of Internet we want.