China's President Xi Jinping has reiterated the need for cybersecurity measures in the country. In a recent two-day cybersecurity meeting held in Beijing, Jinping called for a "solid" security barrier around the internet to safeguard online data and information. Jinping emphasized the importance of managing, operating, and ensuring access to the internet in accordance with Chinese law and the Communist Party's (CPC) management of the internet to make it work for the people.
Over the past decade, Xi Jinping has made preserving security a priority, with his concept of security covering everything from politics and the economy to the environment and cyberspace. In 2015, China passed a national security law with a broader scope to include its cyberspace. A year later, a law was passed that contained requirements for security reviews and for data to be stored on servers in China.
In 2021, China rolled out regulations around so-called critical information infrastructure. These regulations aimed to strengthen cybersecurity and data protections in critical areas such as energy, finance, and transportation. The regulations require companies operating in such areas to store data locally, undergo security assessments and provide technical support in national security investigations.
This year, lawmakers updated anti-espionage legislation to ban the transfer of information related to national security and broaden the definition of spying. The revised legislation aims to counter espionage activities that may endanger China's national security and interests. The legislation also imposes severe punishment on individuals or organizations that engage in such activities.
Navigating China's dense network of rules and laws on online data and information is not without risk for companies. The government has been known to crack down on companies that violate these rules. In April, U.S. consultancy firm Bain & Co reported that police visited its office in Shanghai and questioned some staff. The Financial Times, citing people briefed on the surprise visit, reported that the police also took away computers and phones. Last year, regulators told China's biggest financial data provider Wind Information Co to stop providing offshore users with certain data.
In 2021, authorities launched a cybersecurity investigation into ride-hailing giant Didi Global two days after it went public in the United States. The investigation resulted in Didi Global being pulled from Chinese app stores, and the company facing a $1.6 billion fine. The Chinese government cited cybersecurity concerns as the reason for the investigation.
Xi Jinping's call for the CPC to manage the internet reflects the party's longstanding desire to control the flow of information and ensure that it aligns with the party's ideology. The CPC has a history of internet censorship, and in recent years, it has tightened its grip on the country's internet. The party has also been known to use the internet to promote its own narrative and suppress dissenting opinions.