China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi unveiled his country’s plans for an ambitious global data security initiative on Tuesday at a seminar in Beijing on global digital governance, reported Reuters.
The eight key principles which were outlined embrace areas ranging from personal information to espionage; China is urging a multilateral approach to the issue and has condemned the use of technology to impair other countries’ critical infrastructure.
The initiative calls on countries to refrain from conducting large-scale surveillance of other nations, and from illegally obtaining the information of foreign citizens.
The programme suggests measures that would ensure technology providers do not install backdoors in their products, to rule out any activity that might “infringe upon personal information”.
"Global data security rules that reflect the wishes of all countries and respect the interests of all parties should be reached on the basis of universal participation by all parties," Wang was cited by the outlet as saying.
According to the initiative, tech companies should abide by the laws of host countries, pledging to respect the sovereignty, jurisdiction and governance of data of other states.
"Some individual countries are aggressively pursuing unilateralism, throwing dirty water on other countries under the pretext of 'cleanliness', and conducting global hunts on leading companies of other countries under the pretext of security. This is naked bullying and should be opposed and rejected," said China’s Foreign Minister.
The key principles laid out in the new Chinese initiative seem to address concerns voiced by Washington, as it has been increasingly putting pressure on China’s tech giants, urging other countries around the world to follow in its footsteps and block them due to alleged spying concerns.
In a perceived reference to these allegations, which the Chinese side has vehemently rejected, Wang said:
“We have not and will not ask Chinese companies to transfer data overseas to the government in breach of other countries’ laws.”
It is not yet clear how the new data security policy might be implemented and enforced, and what the international response to the initiative might be,
Alleged Security Threats
The US has long levelled accusations against Chinese companies over perceived national security threats.
In August, Washington unveiled the five-pronged “Clean Network” initiative towards “safeguarding the nation’s assets including citizens’ privacy and companies’ most sensitive information from aggressive intrusions by malign actors, such as the Chinese Communist Party.”
The programme, announced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, sought to ban “untrusted” Chinese tech apps like TikTok and WeChat from US app stores.
Earlier, President Donald Trump signed an executive order on 14 August giving TikTok's parent company ByteDance 90 days to sell its US business or face a ban, triggering a lawsuit from ByteDance.
The Chinese company in response touted extraordinary measures taken to safeguard the privacy and security of its user data, including storing such data outside of China, and erecting software “barriers” to distance it from other ByteDance product data.
Washington’s earlier threats centred on Huawei Technologies Ltd., one of the biggest producers of smartphones and network equipment.
The US blacklisted the tech giant in 2019, and insistently urged other countries to follow suit, claiming that the firm uses its equipment to spy on behalf of the Chinese authorities.
As part of its crackdown on Chinese technology firms, in August 2020 the US expanded restrictions announced in May to effectively cut Huawei off from obtaining semiconductors without a special license - including chips made by foreign firms that have been developed or produced with US software or technology.
Beijing and Huawei have been consistently rejecting all spying accusations.