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China Relaxes Data Export Rules Amid Foreign Firms’ Concern

Beijing has been tightening control of data generated within the country’s borders sparking alarm among foreign firms operating in China

Chinese authorities have tightened control of data generated within the country's borders.


China’s cyberspace regulator has relaxed its rules on some cross-border data flows as it looks to calm the nerves of increasingly nervous foreign companies.

Data collected and generated in international trade and cross-border transportation that does not contain personal information or “important data” will now be exempt from declaration, the Cyberspace Administration of China said.

“These substantially ease the compliance burden for foreign companies in China – although for multinational corporations in sensitive areas the ‘important data’ question still looms,” said Tom Nunlist, associate director at research firm Trivium China.

The rules, which took effect on Friday, finalise a proposed relaxation of some of the data export rules issued last September, which at the time were greeted with relief by foreign and Chinese firms in China that trade outside the country.


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Chinese authorities have in recent years tightened control of data generated within the country’s borders as part of a national security drive – a move that triggered confusion and concern among foreign firms in China.

Firms, however, have said that more clarity is needed on how China defines “important data,” currently specified as data that poses a threat to national and economic interests or affects the rights of individuals or organisations.

The rules published on Friday said Chinese authorities would also establish a “negative list system” for free trade pilot zones, allowing those areas to independently formulate lists of data that need to be included in the scope of security assessment.

Reuters reported in February that Shanghai planned to accelerate approvals for foreign firms wanting to send their local data offshore by leveraging its sprawling free trade zones.

The new rules also adjusted the conditions for data export activities that need to declare a data export security assessment and extended the validity of assessment results from two years to three years.


  • Reuters with additional editing by Sean O’Meara


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Sean O'Meara

Sean O'Meara is an Editor at Asia Financial. He has been a newspaper man for more than 30 years, working at local, regional and national titles in the UK as a writer, sub-editor, page designer and print editor. A football, cricket and rugby fan, he has a particular interest in sports finance.


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