16:38 GMT +314 December 2019
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    China Brushes Off US Disquiet About Stringent New Cybersecurity Laws

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    While some major internet firms, and the US Chamber of Commerce, have expressed concern about China's new cybersecurity strategy, experts told Radio Sputnik that Beijing is merely following suit after similar plans aimed at ensuring better cybersecurity were already implemented in the US and EU.

    Last month the Cyberspace Administration of China published its first strategic report on cybersecurity, which called for the development of a "secure and controllable" internet and declared that China will use all necessary means, including military, to protect its information security.

    The Chinese authorities will "firmly defend the cyber sovereignty of China using all means including economic, administrative, scientific, legal, diplomatic and military ways," the report said.

    James Gong, senior associate at law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, told Radio Sputnik that despite the report's mention of military force, China's policy is not aimed at any specific threat and should be seen in the context of increasing cybersecurity regulation around the world.

    "I would say that this strategy is not targeted at a particular threat from any country. Mainly it says that the government is (under)taking a comprehensive plan to enhance the cybersecurity of China," Gong said.

    "In the EU and the US a number of cybersecurity regulations have been published in the past few years and China is simply following suit in enhancing the protection of cybersecurity."

    "I wouldn't say this has been provoked by a particular threat today or this year, I think it is only natural for China, with its growing power in the world to take steps to enhance protection and cybersecurity."

    At a news briefing Zhao Zeliang, director general of the Cyberspace Administration of China's bureau of cybersecurity, also revealed a plan to review all domestic and foreign companies for "key information products and services" before they can be sold on the Chinese market.

    While China has stressed that new cybersecurity regulations are not designed to hit foreign technology companies, the chairman of the US Chamber of Commerce in China nevertheless expressed concern that the policy could lead to "barriers to trade and innovation."

    Gong told Sputnik that the impact on China-US relations depends on how the cybersecurity strategy will be implemented, and the kind of disclosure requirements which are imposed on foreign firms.

    "If there are certain requirements that require foreign firms to disclose their IT or other secret information that will affect the operations of foreign firms in China, and that could have a negative impact on trade relations between the countries."

    "If the strategy is managed with care, taking into consideration the situation with Chinese cybersecurity technology and the fact that China still needs foreign technology to improve its own technology and protect its information systems. If this is managed in a careful way it could steer the relationship between the two countries to a better direction," Gong said.

    Lennon Chang, an expert on cybersecurity at Monash University, told Radio Sputnik that large internet companies always voice concerns about infringement of freedoms whenever a country announces laws on cybersecurity, and China is no different.

    "No matter which country is drafting these kinds of laws there is always this kind of reaction from major industry or individuals towards infringement of their freedom," he said.

    Chang thinks that a military response to a cyberattack in the traditional sense is unlikely, and China's reference to the military is more likely to refer to the possibility of hacking foreign institutions.

    "It may be that the government doesn't want to collaborate in (a foreign) investigation or prosecution, and some hackers from China could try to hack into other countries' investigations that the Chinese government doesn't want to help. It might be quite likely that that would happen," he said.

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