While raising doubts over China's intellectual property laws and practices, the United States should not ignore the progress Beijing has made in these areas. For example, guaranteeing full protection for intellectual property rights online is a difficult task, yet the government has taken measures to address the problem and made remarkable progress in this regard.
According to a China Internet Network Information Center report, by the end of last year China had about 731 million internet users, and the total value of internet copyrights exceeded 560 billion yuan ($86.8 billion; 73.6 billion euros; ￡64.6 billion). But online piracy, too, has grown with the internet industry, harming IPR protection online.
Piracy is the most serious online copyright violation, because of the low costs and low risks involved and the high profits it can fetch. This year's China Network Intellectual Property Development Report indicates the country's core online copyright industry increased by 31.3 percentage points last year compared with 2015, with the online game industry being worth 180 billion yuan, online literature 10 billion yuan and online videos 5.21 billion yuan. But for online piracy, these figures could have been higher.
Data from iResearch Consulting Group, a market research and consulting company, show that in 2015 and 2016, piracy caused losses of 7.97 billion yuan and 7.98 billion, respectively, to the online literature sector.
There is little doubt that China, despite some drawbacks in its IPR laws and practices, has made tremendous efforts to protect intellectual property rights online.
Since 2005, government departments such as the National Copyright Administration and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology have been leading a campaign called "Sword Net" to combat online piracy in literature, music, videos and games. Thanks to the campaign, many websites involved in IP piracy have been shut down. And because of the increasing awareness of IP protection, establishing a foolproof system for protecting online copyright has become an important task for the government, for which it has implemented more comprehensive laws.
To combat piracy and protect new media copyrights, 10 mainstream media outlets and websites together formed an association at the National Conference on Copyright Protection in Digital Environment in April. The association is expected to play an active role in managing copyright, making rules and negotiating prices, and thus help its members to protect their legitimate rights.
The National Copyright Administration directly supervises more than 3,000 websites, including Baidu, Youku and 18 other highly influential video websites, to ensure they closely monitor the content published on their websites.
Moreover, thanks to strengthened IPR protection, more online video copyright owners are getting their share of payment. This year's Global Music Report, issued by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, says the digital music industry markedly increased in scale last year to hit 15 billion yuan.
Strengthened online copyright protection has also facilitated technological and cultural innovations and creations, a new driver of economic growth. As such, better IPR protection will boost the mobile internet, the internet of things and other related sectors, including artificial intelligence, and help China to become a stronger internet economy.
The author is a fellow at the Center for China and Globalization and a researcher at the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of China.