Anti-colonialism in the war on data sovereignty
Published: Feb 16, 2022 04:38 PM
data security File photo

data security File photo

Revisions in China's updated Cybersecurity Review Measures took effect from Tuesday. One of them stipulates that network platform operators that hold personal information of more than one million users have to go through a cybersecurity review if they plan to list their shares overseas. This is considered to be one of the latest efforts from the Chinese government to maintain the security and sovereignty of the country's data.

In recent years, data has become a strategic tool for competition between countries. Losing data sovereignty will undermine national security. For instance, internet and data control fueled massive unrest in Kazakhstan in January. One of the reasons behind this is that the Central Asian country neglected its data sovereignty and security in pursuit of fast internet development, leaving its data in many areas completely in the hands of US internet giants.

The US is taking full advantage of its technological advances to build a data empire to then control other countries' economic lifelines and public opinion. It has spared no effort to collect data from various countries. At the same time, it adheres to the principle of "America First" in terms of cross-border data flow. According to Washington's double standards, data should flow freely if beneficial to the US, but should be obstructed when it's not.

Faced with the threat from the US, some countries, including EU countries united to resist the US' data hegemony, have been taking countermeasures to protect themselves from becoming Washington's "data colonies". Unfortunately, most countries cannot counteract Washington due a huge technology and economic gap. In fact, most countries have already given up fighting back.

But China must devote itself to defending its data sovereignty and oppose data exploitation. On one hand, China is capable of doing so. On the other, China should gradually change from strategic defense to taking the initiative and advocating the concept of fair data use that benefits all countries.

Therefore, China needs to promote equality in data sharing under the framework of the United Nations through various means, such as international treaties. In this way, all countries can enjoy the benefits of big data without data sovereignty being violated.

Restricting "data export" is Beijing's only current means to fight Washington's data hegemony. In the long run, China aims to promote a global view of data that is inclusive, mutually beneficial, and equal. This is the responsibility of a great power.

We must first protect our own data security so that we can have the strength to promote the establishment of a fair international order on data. In addition, China should work with the EU to break the monopoly of the US internet giants. We cannot let data become a tool for the US to exploit other countries. We should make data a resource for the happiness of people all over the world.

The author is a research fellow at a Hangzhou-based think tank Center for Research on Zhejiang Digital Development and Governance. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn