China Cybersecurity: No Place to Hide

- CHINA LAW BLOG - Oct 11, 2020 -

Steve Dickinson

This is the first in what will be a multi-part series on China cybersecurity. This series stems from the recent webinar at which Steve Dickinson discussed cybersecurity in China. To watch that webinar, go here.

I. Cybersecurity with Chinese Characteristics: The Party is the leader of everything.

Under the guidance of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the Chinese government is working to create a cybersecurity system with Chinese characteristics. This system is designed to make all networked information that crosses the Chinese border a) transparent to the Chinese government and b) closed to unauthorized access by foreign and domestic hackers and governments not affiliated with the CCP.

The primary goal is to use this system for surveillance and control. Surveillance means acquisition of information. As a result, the transparency of the system means all information that crosses the Chinese border should be available to the CCP and its agents. There are no secrets from the Party. As a result, from the standpoint of an individual or a business entity, whether domestic or foreign, this system is a cyber-insecurity system. As the system is implemented with progressively greater refinement and scope, there will be no place to hide from the eyes of the party.

All foreign entities operating within China are subject to this cyber-insecurity system. Since network systems and communication are central to the work of every modern company, understanding how the Chinese system operates is essential. The impact is not limited to foreign entities that establish foreign invested enterprises in China. It also applies to anyone who transmits information, personal or technical, into China via any network. It also applies to any person who transmits information into any country in which the Chinese digital authoritarianism system has been implemented through the Digital Silk Road project. It also applies to anyone who transmits information into any country or region (Hong Kong/Taiwan) that has become the target of Chinese based data gathering operations.

To understand the basis of this system, certain features of the current Chinese system of government must be understood. First, we must understand the role of the CCP. There are two key features:

One, the CCP has been recognized as the “leader on everything”. Under Deng, Jiang and Hu, the goal was to remove the Party from the dominant leadership role so as to release the economic and creative power of the people and non-party institutions. This plan worked so well that many in China began to question the role of the Party.

The primary goal of the Xi Jinping administration has been to reverse this trend. Through the efforts of Chairman Xi, the CCP is now the leader on everything. There is no limit on its role in directing all aspects of China. Accordingly, in 2018 the CCP constitution was revised to state:


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