Not wanting to be left out, after the United Kingdom, Hungary, and South Korea (PDF) all held conferences on cyberspace governance, China has announced that it will be hosting the World Internet Conference from November 19 to 21. The conference, planned by the Cyberspace Administration of China (formerly named the State Internet Information Office), has the stated mission to promote the "development of [the] Internet to be the global shared resources for human solidarity and economic progress."
The conference seems somewhat hastily planned; invitations went out last week and the first I heard of it was a month ago. Perhaps Beijing wanted the get the conference out the door before the next conference meets in 2015 in the Netherlands (the UK, Hungary, South Korea, and the Netherlands are all part of a series that began in London). The agenda, covering global Internet governance, cybersecurity, the role of the Internet in promotion of economic and social development, and technological innovation, is very similar to the topics covered in the UK (2011), Hungary (2012), and South Korea (2013). There is, of course, no explicit reference to human rights, but it could be discussed under "social development." In process, it will probably be most like South Korea, where there was criticism that the conference showed a low degree of inclusiveness to civil society groups.
The conference promises to have high-level political support within China. There have been a number of articles in the Chinese press over the last year arguing that Beijing needs to be more assertive about defining the agenda for Internet governance. According to Wang Yukai, an academic and advisor to the government, one of the things required to help make China a "strong cyber power" (网络强国) is a "clear international strategy that lays out priorities and defends China’s right to have a voice on cyber issues."
As with the previous conferences, we shouldn’t expect much in outcomes. The Seoul Conference, for example, issued a "Framework for and Commitment to Open and Secure Cyberspace” and announced the follow-up conference at the Hague. For China, just having the conference is probably enough, signaling that it intends to take more of a role in shaping the rules of the road for cyberspace.