2023 Conference on International Cyber Security | 7-8 November 2023
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Panel 2


Bring in the Diplomats: Cyber Conflict and Diplomatic Negotiations

Jing Su

Jing Su is a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Humanities and Social Science at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen. She has been awarded the German Chancellor Fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Her research interests are in international relations, comparative politics, comparative political economy, European studies, and German studies. Her current research project sits at the intersection of international relations with cyberspace.


Caice Jin

Caice Jin is currently a PhD candidate in Politics at the University of Exeter. Before joining Exeter, he earned a BA in Economics from Zhejiang University of Finance and Economics. After graduating, he turned to international relations and got an MA in Global Studies from The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen. His current research project centers on Chinese domestic ideological contestation and its connection to international ideological contestation. His broader research interests encompass norms, identity, and ideology in international politics, as well as state building and state capacity. He is also a co-convener of the PGR Seminar for the Department of Social and Political Sciences, Philosophy, and Anthropology.

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Sino–European Norm Contestation in Cyberspace

In the midst of a crumbling international order and the resurgence of great power competition, cyberspace has emerged as a focal point in the international political arena due to its significant role in technological development, economic growth, and national security. In this context, norms in cyberspace remain highly contested internationally. However, there are few studies on the contestation of cyberspace norms in the relationship between the EU and China. This paper aimed to address this gap by answering the research question: how do the EU and China interact in deliberating and contesting norms in cyberspace?

In this paper, we began by reviewing the development of the concept of “norm contestation” and exploring how to apply this concept to EU-China relations in cyberspace. Based on the existing literature, we first defined norm clusters including norms of three different levels, namely macro-level, meso-level, and micro-level. And we thought that both the EU and China want to gain influence in the cyber domine while those motivations come from two aspects: the non-material dimension of power and the material dimension of power.

This research has shown that three normative contestation modes currently exist between the EU and China in cyberspace. The first is the instrumental contestation mode embodied through the case of Data Localization. Secondly, the existence of an ideology contestation mode is verified through the case of Human Rights in cyberspace. Finally, the Security of 5G Infrastructure reflects the possibility of a third norm contestation, i.e. compound contestation. The different modes of norm contestation in cyberspace bring different outcomes. We found that the normative competition in cyberspace between the EU and China presents a more complex picture, going beyond the simple dichotomy of two opposing and competing normative clusters. The paradigm of instrumental competition leads to convergence, which will contribute to the development of cyberspace in the world.