Chinese Government pursues global data security initiatives

Article, Lilia Guan, CIO Tech Asia

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Full details of initiative to establish global standards on data security by the CCP.

Despite global condemnation of Hong Kong’s new National Security Law, to shake up digital surveillance in the city, the Chinese Communist Party plans to pursue global data security initiatives.

State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced the initiative at the International Seminar on Global Digital Governance.

Under the theme “Seizing Digital Opportunities for Cooperation and Development”, Minister Yi said this “will be a prime opportunity for participants, from experts, scholars to business leaders, to look into the future of the digital economy, discuss ways to manage data security risks and promote global governance in the digital domain”.

According to Minister Yi the technological revolution and industrial transformation is in the making and countries face the common task of integrating the digital economy with the real economy, speeding up the shift to new growth drivers, and cultivating new industries and new forms of business.

“The global spread of COVID-19 has presented a major test to all countries and to our capacity of global governance,” he said. “In the course of epidemic response, digital technologies, including artificial intelligence, big data and cloud computing, have made rapid progress.

Telecommuting, cloud economy and other new business forms have played an important role in keeping the society running and countering the downward pressure on the economy.”

According to the latest statistics, the number of mobile Internet users has reached 3.5 billion around the world, and the digital economy now takes up more than 15 percent of the global GDP. The explosive growth and aggregation of data, like the discovery of oil, is providing a new source of energy for economic growth and industrial transformation, noted the Minister.

“In the meantime, the mounting risks of data security have put national security, public interests and personal rights at stake, and posed new challenges to global digital governance,” he said. “The frequent and massive cross-border data flow puts to the test the governance capacity of national governments in terms of governance philosophy, legislative framework and regulatory mechanism.”

The Minister said the “divergence of data laws and regulations in different countries has pushed up the compliance costs for global businesses”.

“To reduce the deficit in global digital governance, countries face a pressing need to step up communication and coordination, build up mutual trust and deepen cooperation with one another.”

Minister Yi pointed out that President Xi Jinping noted “countries, although varied in national conditions, development stage of Internet and challenges, hold the same desire for promoting digital economy, same interests in tackling cybersecurity challenges and same expectations for strengthened cyberspace governance”.

Countries need to intensify pragmatic cooperation and embark on a path of mutual trust and collective governance, adding more vitality to a community with a shared future in cyberspace.

China believes that to effectively address the risks and challenges to data security, the following principles must be observed:

  • First, uphold multilateralism. Pursuing extensive consultation and joint contribution for shared benefits is the right way forward for addressing the deficit in global digital governance. It is important to develop a set of international rules on data security that reflect the will and respect the interests of all countries through broad-based participation. Bent on unilateral acts, a certain country keeps making groundless accusations against others in the name of “clean” network and used security as a pretext to prey on enterprises of other countries who have a competitive edge. Such blatant acts of bullying must be opposed and rejected.
  • Second, balance security and development. Protecting data security is essential for the sound growth of digital economy. Countries have the right to protect data security according to law. That said, they are also duty-bound to provide an open, fair and non-discriminatory environment for all businesses. Protectionism in the digital domain runs counter to the laws of economic development and the trend of globalization. Protectionist practices undermine the right of global consumers to equally access digital services and will eventually hold back the country’s own development.
  • Third, ensure fairness and justice. Protection of digital security should be based on facts and the law. Politicization of security issues, double standards and slandering others violate the basic norms governing international relations, and seriously disrupt and hamper global digital cooperation and development.

According to Minister Yi digital economy in China has been thriving with “over 900 million netizens, including a fast-growing group of 5G subscribers of 88 million, in China”.

“Digital economy takes up more than one-third of China’s GDP,” he said. “We have clear legal provisions for protecting the lawful rights and interests of citizens and organisations, including data security and personal information.

The Chinese government has acted in strict compliance with data security principles. We have not and will not ask Chinese companies to transfer data overseas to the government in breach of other countries’ laws.”

Minister Yi believes that China has taken a constructive part in multilateral discussions on data security including at the UN, G20, BRICS and the ASEAN Regional Forum, contributing China’s input to global digital governance.

“In view of the new issues and challenges emerging in this field, China would like to propose a Global Initiative on Data Security, and looks forward to the active participation of all parties.”

  • The key points of the CCP initiative includes:
  • First, approach data security with an objective and rational attitude, and maintain an open, secure and stable global supply chain.
  • Second, oppose using ICT activities to impair other States’ critical infrastructure or steal important data.
  • Third, take actions to prevent and put an end to activities that infringe upon personal information, oppose abusing ICT to conduct mass surveillance against other States or engage in unauthorised collection of personal information of other States.
  • Fourth, ask companies to respect the laws of host countries, desist from coercing domestic companies into storing data generated and obtained overseas in one’s own territory.
  • Fifth, respect the sovereignty, jurisdiction and governance of data of other States, avoid asking companies or individuals to provide data located in other States without the latter’s permission.
  • Sixth, meet law enforcement needs for overseas data through judicial assistance or other appropriate channels.
  • Seventh, ICT products and services providers should not install backdoors in their products and services to illegally obtain user data.
  • Eighth, ICT companies should not seek illegitimate interests by taking advantage of users’ dependence on their products.

“I hope the Chinese initiative will serve as a basis for international rules-making on data security and mark the start of a global process in this area,” said Minister Yi. “We look forward to the participation of national governments, international organisations and all other stakeholders, and call on States to support the commitments laid out in the Initiative through bilateral or regional agreements. We are also open-minded to good ideas and suggestions from all sides.”

The summit wasn’t the first time Minister Yi talked about China’s digital pursuits. During the G20 G20 Extraordinary Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, he told the attendees the G20 “needs to unlock the potential of digital economy”.

China is actively considering putting forward an initiative on data security, and calls for all parties to build an open, fair and non-discriminatory business environment and maintain the supply chain security of global ICT products and services, Minister Yi said at the time.

According to Reuters, China tightly controls and censors its own cyberspace through the popularly dubbed Great Firewall, which has for years restricted access to firms such as U.S. majors Twitter Inc (TWTR.N), Facebook Inc (FB.O) and Google owner Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O).

The initiative being perused by the CCP is in response to the administration of US President Donald Trump has taken aim at Chinese giants such as Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, Tencent Holdings Ltd (0700.HK) and TikTok owner ByteDance, citing concerns over national security and the collection of personal data, which the companies have rejected.

It has blocked US exports to Huawei and plans to ban TikTok in the United States this month unless ByteDance sells TikTok’s U.S. operations.



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