China launches initiative for global data security issues

HONG KONG (AP) — China has launched an initiative to address global data security issues, a countermove to the U.S. “clean network” program that is aimed at discouraging other countries from using Chinese technology.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced the initiative in Beijing on Tuesday at a seminar on global digital governance.

He said mounting risks for cyber security threaten national security, public interests and personal rights.

The move comes amid a deterioration in U.S.-China relations encompassing trade tensions and competition in telecommunications and artificial intelligence technologies, with the U.S. accusing Chinese technology companies of threatening American national security.

“Bent on unilateral acts, a certain country keeps making groundless accusations against others in the name of ‘clean’ networks and used security as a pretext to prey on enterprises of other countries who have a competitive edge,” Wang said, according to a transcript of his speech released by the ministry. “Such blatant acts of bullying must be opposed and rejected.”

Wang said that it was important to develop international rules on data security that will “reflect the will and respect the interests of all countries through broad-based participation.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month unveiled the “Clean Network” program, saying it is aimed at protecting citizens’ privacy and sensitive information from “malign actors, such as the Chinese Communist Party.”

More than 30 countries and territories such as Australia and Britain are participating in that initiative, which seeks to exclude Chinese telecommunications companies like Huawei and ZTE, as well as apps, cloud service providers and undersea cables from their internet networks.

The U.S. has expressed concerns over national security threats from services provided by Chinese technology companies like Huawei, Bytedance and Tencent.

Washington has dissuaded some U.S. allies from using Huawei’s technology in 5G networks, saying data potentially could be accessed by the Chinese government. Huawei vehemently denies that.

Washington also has imposed sanctions that restrict Huawei from procuring chips containing American technology. Recently, the U.S. also said it will ban Chinese company Bytedance’s popular TikTok video app in the country unless it finds an American buyer. It similarly labelled Tencent’s popular messaging app WeChat a national security threat.

The Chinese initiative opposes impairing critical infrastructure and theft of important data. It also opposes abusing technology to “conduct mass surveillance against other states,” the transcript said.

Companies should not “install backdoors in their products and services” to illegally obtain user data, should respect the sovereignty, jurisdiction and governance of data in other states,” it says.

“The Chinese government has acted in strict compliance with data security principles. We have not and will not ask Chinese companies to transfer data overseas to the government in breach of other countries’ laws,” said Wang.

“Politicization of security issues, double standards and slandering others violate the basic norms governing international relations, and seriously disrupts and hampers global digital cooperation and development,” he said.

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