It appears the Chinese government is concerned it doesn't censor the internet enough already.
China has adopted a new national security law that aims to make internet, IT infrastructure and systems, and data in certain sectors "secure and controllable", state-owned news agency Xinhua said in a notice on the National People's Congress (NPC) website.
More control of the world's greatest communication tool is what's being sought, despite its best efforts to deflect this inevitable conclusion with the deployment of impenetrable jargon.
Zheng Shuna of the NPC's Legislative Affairs Commission told reporters that cyberspace sovereignty is "the embodiment and extension of national sovereignty" and an important part of national infrastructure, Xinhua said in a separate report.
This is more of the same for China, which has sought increased control
of the internet for years. It has also shifted towards hardware homogeneity -- partially due to the state's protectionist tendencies, as well as strong hints that foreign hardware is arriving on its shores pre-compromised
by intelligence services.
It's not just the hardware. It's also the information flowing to and from it. China can certainly restrict imports of IT hardware and regulate internal infrastructure and systems, but the internet is much more ethereal and, for the most part, can't be stopped at the borders
and searched for violations of Chinese sovereignty.
But that's not all the Chinese government is seeking to control.
As well as cyber security, the law covers defence, finance, science and technology, culture, religion, space, ocean depths and polar regions.
And, in only the way one can when defending a very powerful state that takes a dim view of dissension (read: sends out the tanks), the Commission's spokesperson has provided a completely incredulous statement attempting to downplay the power grab.
Zheng rejected suggestions that the definition was "too broad", Xinhua said.
One shudders to think what China's NPC Commission would consider to be "too broad." But as worrying as China's martial-law-but-with-computers push is, the law seems resistant to interpretation. (Presumably intentionally…)
Hong-Kong based Jolene Reimerson of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said: "It is not yet clear how China intends to 'ensure cyberspace security' or to make the internet and data 'secure and controllable' under the new national security law."
It is probably not clear to the Chinese government, either, as much of the control sought will remain mostly out of its grasp. The new law doesn't specify what domestic IT providers will have to do to comply with the government's unstated demands, but considering its recent attempts to codify hardware/software backdoors, it will problably be something along these lines.
"Secure and controllable data" seems almost noble when placed into certain contexts, but tying it to national security and expanding the coverage to include the internet certainly isn't. "Security" and "control" aren't strange bedfellows. The first is often used to justify the latter. China isn't the only country to expand government powers and domestic surveillance in the name of "security." (In fact, you could replace the word "China" in this article's headline with the name of almost any large Western country and it would be equally unsurprising.) It just doesn't bother with the nicety of pretending to care about its citizens' rights.
There's some lip service being paid to "cooperation" with other countries for better cybersecurity, but the official talking points discuss things like "establishing a multilateral, democratic and transparent international Internet management system." It only sounds promising if you ignore China's multiple attempts
to censor the internet. Or its own statements on the new law
"Internet space within the People's Republic of China is subject to the country's sovereignty," [Zheng] said.
"Cooperation" in this context presumably means other countries and their internet-based platforms being asked to comply with filtering and blocking orders or risk losing access to a very large market. When the Chinese government says "multilateral," it's just saying it wants one internet for its people and one internet for the rest of the world and an impenetrable wall between them.