Here’s Something Trump and the Chinese President Agree on

December 16, 2015, 5:16 PM UTC

Donald Trump, the Republican U.S. presidential candidate, and Chinese president Xi Jinping—an unlikely pair if there ever was one—agree on one important point: Nations should be able to control the Internet and who can access what.

Tuesday night during the GOP debate, Trump said the U.S. should keep ISIS from using the Internet to recruit young people and plot against the U.S.

“We need to get brilliant people from Silicon Valley and other places to figure out a way,” he noted. “I don’t want them using our Internet to take our young, impressionable youth,” Trump said in a response to a question from CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

He added that the U.S. first needs to “figure out a way so ISIS cannot use the Internet and second we should be able to penetrate the Internet to find out where ISIS is. I would certainly be open to closing areas where we are at war with somebody,” Trump said. (Here is CNN’s video of his remarks.)

Last week, Trump referred to “closing the Internet up in some way” when he called for a ban on the immigration of Muslims to the U.S.

On Wednesday, President Xi said nations should be able to control their own online destiny. Speaking at the World Internet Conference in China’s Zhejiang province, Xi said countries should be able to set their developmental and regulatory policies, in what the BBC said was a signal that cybersecurity and controls are now a priority for Xi’s government.

Calls to segment and isolate portions of the Internet flies in the face of what the worldwide network was built to do—provide a boundary-less communications conduit for people and businesses.

China has long had a problematic track record here, at least from a U.S. point of view. The country has a long history of censorship and controls, which have posed a hurdle to U.S. businesses trying to penetrate that market. It blocks hundreds of Internet sites based outside the country, for example.

Google (GOOG) famously decided to close its search engine business in China five years ago in part because of these rules, but in the past two years other U.S. cloud providers—Amazon (AMZN) Web Services, Microsoft (MSFT), and IBM (IBM) for example—have rushed into China to set up cloud computing services, mostly via partnerships with Chinese national companies. The lure of the potential market size is just too strong to stay away. Even Google is starting to inch back into China.

And China has its own Internet giants in the form of Alibaba (BABA), Baidu (BIDU), and Tencent, all of which want to keep their hold on Chinese business while also expanding outside.

Xi’s point is that China, with its estimated 650 million Internet surfers, should be at the table when Internet and cybersecurity policies are decided. The security issue is a particular sore point given that U.S. and Chinese officials have traded charges of state-sponsored espionage over the past few years.

Trump went on to clarify that he only wanted to close Internet access in certain areas where ISIS is strong so his call to action is more circumscribed than China’s Internet policy. He also holds no official office so his words, despite the media frenzy, are a long way from reality. But there is a receptive audience to what he’s saying, so it would be foolhardy to disregard his message entirely.


For more from Barb, you can follow her on Twitter @gigabarb; read her Fortune coverage at; or subscribe via her RSS feed.

And please subscribe to Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily newsletter on the business of technology.

Subscribe to Well Adjusted, our newsletter full of simple strategies to work smarter and live better, from the Fortune Well team. Sign up today.

Read More

Artificial IntelligenceCryptocurrencyMetaverseCybersecurityTech Forward