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China's New Cybersecurity Law



This article examines how categorization mechanisms of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have affected the dynamics between China and other member states during the process of environmental negotiations, and how this categorized institutional environment influenced members’ bargaining positions during the studied period. It argues that by categorizing it as a non-Annex I Party, the UNFCCC conferred on China a context-specific role of a developing country and legitimized its reluctance to abide through legally binding commitments. Yet, as China’s capabilities changed, its institutional role as a developing country was perceived by other member states as inappropriate. Consequently, various member states, such as the United States and the European Union, expected China to enact the role of a rising power, which meant abiding by legally binding commitments and abandoning its current category group. Furthermore, during these negotiations, both China and other member states utilized the UNFCCC’s categorization mechanisms, by emphasizing institutional categorical positioning, in order to enhance their bargaining power. Therefore, this article illustrates how the parties to the Convention were able to reach a successful, binding, and inclusive agreement in Paris.
INSS Insight No. 912, April 3, 2017
China's New Cybersecurity Law
Israel Kanner and Doron Ella
China's new Cybersecurity Law will go into effect on June 1, 2017. According to official
statements, the purpose of the law is to protect China's national security and social stability
through close supervision of internet content and technologies. The law has the potential to affect
every Chinese or foreign internet or information technology business operating in China. After
the law was announced, there were concerns in the West that the continued operation of foreign
companies in China will be conditional upon their providing information and technologies to
Chinese authorities, or on the inclusion of "backdoors" in their products. Another concern is that
foreign companies will be forced to make way for local governmental companies that develop
products that are adapted to the regulations of the Chinese market.
Background to the Law
The new Cybersecurity Law joins the NGO law and the anti-terror law that were passed last year
with the purpose of limiting and restraining the activity of organizations and individuals within
mainland China. The law is part of an intensifying legislative trend that seeks to increase the
Chinese government's control over the technology-internet realm, thereby reducing potential
threats to the regime's stability as a result of free discourse over the internet. An example of this
is the self-restraint charter of 2002 of the Chinese internet industry, which transferred legal
responsibility for preventing the distribution of unauthorized content to the content providers
themselves, thus turning them into agents of government censorship. The 2016 Chinese
legislation on cybersecurity, international NGOs, and terrorism demonstrates the Chinese
communist party's increasing fear of the penetration of foreign influences, including Western
liberal or Islamic ideas and inspiration from national separatist movements. One of the tools the
party uses to control content disseminated on the internet is the "Great Firewall of China," which
is responsible for blocking access to prohibited Western internet services, such as Google and
Facebook. The cyber law is another step in the party's tightening grip on such information and in
solidifying its governmental power.
Israel Kanner is an Israel Institute Research Associate. Doron Ella is a Glazer Research Associate.
INSS Insight No. 912 Chinas New Cybersecurity Law
Main Points within the Law
The Chinese Cybersecurity Law, which has the potential to affect the West in general and Israel
in particular, is meant to protect China's national security and the communist party's rule. The
law requires internet users to refrain from activities that endanger Chinese security, honor, or
national interest (article 12), and prohibits opposition to the communist party and attempts to
overthrew the socialist system, promote terrorism and religious separatism, or disseminate false
information that could harm the economy or the social order. This provision demonstrates an
attempt to shape the use of the internet in a way that matches the party's needs and aims. The law
calls on the nation to take an active part in enforcing it, and thus demands (article 14) that every
person or organization that identifies subversive activity on the internet report it immediately to
the relevant government ministries.
The law includes a number of articles that raise specific concerns for Western companies. First,
the law calls for gathering civilian information and keeping it within China's borders. Article 37
states that all personal information gathered in China by companies involved in essential
information infrastructure must be saved on Chinese servers (there is a special protocol regarding
information that must be saved on servers outside China). Article 24 states that companies that
provide services such as domain names, distribution of information online, messaging services,
and so on must demand customers authentic personal information and, if they refuse to provide
it, must not provide them with service.
Second, companies are required to assist governmental-party agencies involved in national and
public security. Thus, article 28 states that network operators shall provide technical assistance to
public security agencies that require it. The law's vague wording here raises concerns that
companies will be required by law to disclose information on their customers, with no legal
ability to refuse. Article 49 states that network operators must also cooperate with government
departments regarding routine checks and supervision. Article 50 adds that government
authorities have the right to require companies to erase information if, in their opinion, it is
dangerous or illegal.
Anyone who violates the law is subject to a fine of up to 1 million yuan ($144,000). However,
article 75 provides a few details on the nature of punishments for foreign companies: when
foreign institutions, organizations, or individuals engage in illegal cyber activity that endangers
essential Chinese information infrastructure and national security, the relevant government
ministries will be entitled to freeze their assets and take any punitive measures necessary. Here
too, the law's expansive wording, especially "any punitive measures necessary," places the future
of companies seeking to operate in the Chinese market at the discretion of the various
government authorities in China.
INSS Insight No. 912 Chinas New Cybersecurity Law
Implications for Israel
The legislation demonstrates the Chinese government's awareness of the increasing economic
and governmental potential of internet applications that can be used to accumulate economic
power in mainland China and abroad and exert political influence. It likewise bespeaks the
government’s intention to strengthen its supervision and control measures over internet
operations by citizens and foreigners within Chinese territory, in order to fortify governmental
stability. Since from the government's perspective depending on foreign technologies constitutes
a potential threat to national security, it seeks to upgrade its interest services and cyber
capabilities vis-à-vis its competitors in the West. The new legislation sets out a course of action
for Chinese companies, which will need to improve their technology to meet the government's
needs and demands.
China sees Israel as a source of technological knowledge and innovation, which has helped
deepen trade relations between the two countries in recent years. However, the new
Cybersecurity Law could complicate the continued positive development of these relations.
Every Israeli technology company that is involved in social media or information will be
supervised by the Chinese authorities and will be forced to operate under many more restrictions
than before. Israeli companies interested in operating in China will have to take into account the
fact that the Chinese government will be able to demand that their source code be submitted for
review (for example, the case of Apple). This demand gives the government a "backdoor"
through which it can access the source code of Western companies and make use of it for its own
purposes, as well as allowing the code to be copied by Chinese companies connected to the
government. In addition, the government will be able to demand the information collected on the
companies' Chinese customers, which could create an ethical problem if the information is used
against citizens. Therefore, the relevant Israeli government ministries would do well to work
together in order to raise awareness about the new Chinese Cybersecurity Law among Israeli
companies currently operating in China or those interested in operating there in the future.
Furthermore, even though Israeli companies in foreign countries are required to operate in
accordance with local regulations, there is room to consider the possibility of providing special
legal assistance to companies operating in China in view of the unique challenges they will
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