Global initiative unveiled . . .
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi unveiled on Tuesday a ‘Global Initiative on Data Security’ to establish Chinese-led international standards on data security and promote multilateralism in the global cybersphere. The official statement outlined a total of eight proposals, including opposing the use of data to undermine national security and cyberattacks on other countries’ key infrastructure; preventing requirements on companies to store data generated and obtained abroad in the companies’ own territories; paying respect to other countries’ sovereignty, jurisdiction, and governance of data; and, calling on tech firms to not access user data illegally by building software ‘backdoors.’
A counter to recent U.S. moves in the tech space . . .
Without naming the U.S., several Chinese officials pointed to “some individual countries” for “pursuing unilateralism.” China’s new initiative is primarily seen as a response to the U.S.’s ‘Clean Network’ program put forward in August, which has been targeting Chinese tech service providers – including Huawei, Tencent, and ByteDance (the parent company of TikTok) – on security grounds. By launching its initiative, Beijing appears to be assuming a more active role in the global governance of data. Along with the recently-announced plan to build a pilot digital free trade zone in Beijing, China appears hopeful that its rule-setting initiative could eventually boost its tech industry.
Buy-in remains uncertain . . .
Although the emphasis was placed on co-operation, joint efforts, and maximizing shared interests in the initiative, the response from other countries has been muted. It remains unclear to what extent other economies will buy in and help China break the U.S.’s current technology containment strategy. Questions have also been raised around China’s own record of tightened censorship and control in cyberspace in recent years. In Canada’s case, thorny issues remain in the two countries’ current bilateral relations, and recent APF Canada public opinion polling on high-tech investment from Asia shows that Canadians are skeptical. Beijing is likely going to face many obstacles in bringing this new initiative online globally.
- Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada: 2019 National Opinion Poll: Canadian Views on High-tech Investment from Asia
- Channel News Asia: China unveils global data security initiative, says some countries bullying others
- Wall Street Journal: China launches initiative to set global data-security rules