China has launched its own initiative to combat global data security issues in what may seem as a countermove to the Trump Administration’s ‘clean network’ program, aimed at protecting citizens’ privacy and sensitive information from “malign actors, such as the Chinese Communist Party.” U.S.-China relations have deteriorated amid trade tensions and competition in telecommunications and artificial intelligence technologies. This has been exacerbated with the U.S. accusing Chinese tech companies, like Huawei, Bytedance, and Tencent, of endangering American national security by potentially being accessible by the Chinese government.
Announcing the initiative at a global digital governance seminar in Beijing on 8 September, Foreign Minister Wang Yi called attention to the increasing risks cybersecurity threats pose to national security, public interests, and personal rights.
According to the transcript of Wang’s speech, the Chinese initiative rejects impairing critical infrastructure, theft of important data, and abusing technology to “conduct mass surveillance against other states.” Wang also stated that the Chinese government has acted, and continues to act in compliance with strict data security principles, so as to not ask Chinese companies to transfer data to the government in breach of other countries’ laws. Wang slated the politicisation of security issues and the “bullying” of other countries as a violation of international relations and a disruptive force to global digital cooperation and development.