China proposes Global Initiative on Data Security

Speaking at the international conference ‘Seizing Digital Opportunities for Cooperation and Development’, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced the Global Initiative on Data Security. In the context of a ‘new development of international division of labor’, the initiative emphasises the importance of maintaining the supply-chain security of ICT products and services as well as the responsibility and right of states to ensure data security when it comes to their own national, public, economic, and social security and stability.  

The initiative invites states and other actors to maintain the global ICT supply chain, handle national data security in an evidence-based manner, and stand against stealing and misusing important data from the critical infrastructure of other states. It also calls for them to oppose mass surveillance against other states, not  to request domestic companies to store others’ data in their own territory, respect the sovereignty of data of other states,not to obtain data located overseas through their own companies, and utilise judicial assistance mechanisms to obtain data from third countries (even when there is a bilateral data-access agreement between other two countries) for the sake of combating cybercrime. The initiative states that ICT product and service providers should restrain from implementing backdoors, taking advantage of users’ dependence on certain ICT products, or forcing users to upgrade their systems, and should commit to the timely notification of partners and customers of critical vulnerabilities in their systems in addition to offering remedies for such vulnerabilities. Stakeholders, namely international organisations, ICT companies, technology communities, civil society organisations, and individuals, are invited to support these efforts.  

Reporting on the initiative, the China Global Television Network (CGTN) noted that it comes a month after the USA announced the Clean Network programme, which includes ‘purging “untrusted” Chinese apps’ in the context of the US decisions against Huawei, TikTok, and Tencent. CGTN also quoted Minister Wang blaming ‘some individual countries’ of aggressively pursuing unilateralism and ‘conducting global hunts on leading companies of other countries under the pretext of security’, which should be opposed and rejected. The Diplomat observed that, with this global initiative, China reflects its own concerns on being cut off from accessing Western technology and supply chains, its concerns on their own data security due to foreign surveillance programmes, and its attempts to address Western concerns about Chinese technology.