President Joe Biden withdrew from his summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping on November 15 pledging to prosecute what he called “easy, direct competition” with China. Yet Beijing is already beating the United States and its partners in one important domain: data.
Data is a 21st-century oil, a vital resource that will advance strategic algorithms, economic power and national strength. The source of this data is all of us: our health records and genetic sequences, our online habits, the flow of our business supply chain, terabyte-filled photo booths, drones and private cars.
21st century global competitiveness will need to protect and use this data to achieve commercial, technological and military benefits. So far, China is winning, and the West has never participated.
With the help of the latest laws and regulations, Mr. Xi worked hard to make the Communist Party of China the world’s largest data retailer. How does Beijing do that? By enclosing Chinese data around the world, we are using new foreign power over global data flows and placing foreign companies operating in China with a legal obligation – all of which is taking foreign data in legal and illegal ways.
Mr. Xi knows that even closing down Chinese data alone, representing the patterns and behavior of about 1.4 billion people, could push Beijing’s rivals into a quest for a global economy.
Biden officials talked about the importance of data in our tournament with China. But no visible strategy has emerged. That threatens the privacy of the American people, economic competition, national security and the coming globalization. This will be a major test of China’s US policy in 2022.
Washington’s ambiguity in being at the center of big data in Beijing’s ambitions and the way our data is used to achieve those ambitions is puzzling at a time when American politicians are increasingly concerned about the possible collection and exploitation of big data by the US. tech giants.
It is also strange that Americans in bipartisan fashion are also clever about the ways Beijing exploits and equips other U.S. services, such as our major markets.
That is reflected in the way Washington is finally – if it should – begin to deal with the self-destructive flow of American dollars into China’s military and surveillance equipment around the world. While these types of measures still need dramatic improvements, at least policymakers now have some tools to curb Beijing’s easy access to the U.S. capital.
This is not the case with the data, where Beijing believes that it has a free hand and that the West is too disturbed or lacks a meaningful response. Mr. Xi thinks and does great things, from the first days of his reign.
In 2013, shortly after taking over the presidency in Beijing, Mr. Xi declared: “The vast ocean of data, such as oil wells during industrial development, has a tremendous potential for productivity and opportunity. Anyone who controls big data technology will be in control of development resources and have a high profile. ”
Since then, Beijing has been building a framework to ensure that mass data collection serves the purposes of the Chinese Communist Party.
A series of laws enacted in 2017 enshrined the group’s ability to access private data on Chinese networks, either in China or associated with Chinese firms such as Huawei overseas.
Beijing has now quietly introduced a new set of rules – first the Data Protection Act in September, followed by the November Personal Data Protection Act – which further seeks not only access to private data but also effective control over it.
This has a huge impact on foreign firms operating in China. Not only should their Chinese data remain in China and accessible to the government, but Beijing now wants to control whether they can send it to their headquarters; business lab, California,; or to a foreign government that has applied for law enforcement or control.
Beijing’s new rules could make it a crime to comply with China’s external sanctions, which include data – such as bank closure or cloud services to a Chinese organization related to human rights abuses. In these cases, foreign firms may comply with U.S. law, or they may comply with Chinese law, but not both.
The effect of these laws is obvious. Tesla, Apple and others have chosen to build dedicated Chinese data centers – sometimes in partnership with Chinese corporations, lest they lose access to the vast Chinese consumer market. Goldman Sachs is under pressure to send memoranda to his U.S. headquarters.
Beijing’s recent actions are in line with its long-term efforts to buy, steal and obtain data from external sources around the world. Beijing hits the details of international companies. It runs “talent hiring” programs at universities and foreign firms. It buys foreign companies, such as the Italian manufacturer of military drones. It supports its data-driven implementation in open foreign markets such as Silicon Valley.
Nudity method is incompatible. It relies on access to foreign data while denying foreigners access to Chinese data – and it seems that foreign governments will not respond. The United States, after all, does not have a comprehensive corporate data management system, while the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation focuses on consumer privacy.
Will American policymakers and allies develop ways to limit the flow of strategic data to China? Meanwhile, the response from Biden management is: perhaps.
“Our strategic competitors see big data as strategic assets,” US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said this summer, “and we should see it the same way.”