China pushes new global data security initiative, decrying US ‘politicizing’ the issue

A 5G-supported intelligent robot works at the administration service centre on August 14, 2020 in Zhoushan, Zhejiang Province of China. China announced a new global data security program, which seemed tat least in part  to be in response to restrictions or outright banning by Western allies of the use of Chinese telecommunication equipment manufact...

China announced a comprehensive global data security program Tuesday, proposing many of the same international norms agreed upon by Western nations already, while protecting China's interest in balkanizing the internet.

State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi proposed the "Global Data Security Initiative" in a statement translated here by the New America think tank. According to Wang, the goal of the initiative is to allow countries to operate their own legal regimes so long as all companies can enter markets under the same rules, all while globally protecting information security.

The announcement comes after a global cohort of nations led by the United States have restricted or outright banned the use of Chinese telecommunication equipment manufacturer Huawei's wares in local 5G infrastructure. Huawei has been accused of a spate of grievances, including violating sanctions, aiding in Chinese economic espionage, and benefitting from the Chinese theft of foreign intellectual property. Without mentioning Huawei by name, Wang comments implied that China's data initiative is, at least in part, in response to the current situation involving the manufacturer.

"Politicizing data security issues and applying double standards, even to the point of freely starting rumors to blacken others' names, violates basic principles of international relations and seriously disturbs and hinders global digital cooperation and development," said Wang in his statement.

The Chinese plan is comprised of eight key points:

  • Maintain "open, secure, and stable global supply chains"
  • oppose cyber attacks that "damage other countries' critical infrastructure or steal important data"
  • Oppose the use of information technology to mass surveil or illegally collect personal data of citizens on foreign countries
  • Require companies to respect data localization laws and not transfer data abroad
  • Respect the sovereignty data management rights of other countries and not directly access data located abroad from companies or individuals
  • Create legal means for law enforcement for cross-border data retrieval by law enforcement
  • Ban companies from using backdoors in their products to illegally obtain user data
  • Oppose the barring of technology companies that leverage users’ dependence on their products to seek illegitimate gains

The agreement would protect many of the controversial data practices of the Chinese government – including forcing companies to store China-related data on Chinese soil and widespread domestic surveillance. China is frequently accused of using hackers to steal intellectual property stored in foreign countries.

Many of the points in the Global Data Security Initiative are not controversial. Several countries advocate, for example, countries cease all cyberattacks on critical infrastructure.

Joe Uchill

Joe is a senior reporter at SC Weekly, focused on policy issues. He previously covered cybersecurity for Axios, The Hill and the Christian Science Monitor’s short-lived Passcode website.

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