Data management, security key to healthy growth of digital economy

China”s internet and digital economy is booming. Last year, China’s digital economy reached 39.2 trillion yuan ($6.14 trillion), accounting for more than 30 percent of the nation’s GDP and ranking second globally. Digital economy has become an important engine for China’s economic development. Within such a context, preventing data security risks, building a data security protection system and improving data governance mechanisms have become more important.

In June, the National People’s Congress passed the Data Security Law, which took effect on Sept 1. In August, the National People’s Congress passed the Personal Information Protection Law, which will take effect next month.

China’s cyber management system and mechanism have been continuously improved, which has provided a solid legal basis for further strengthening of data governance and improved the effectiveness of cyberspace governance.

Data is the fifth most important economic element after land, labor, capital and technology. It has a wide range of manifestations and multifarious sources. Data elements are also nonexclusive. Compared with other elements, the cost of using and owning data elements is relatively low, and information is easily copied and utilized. As a new type of element, we are still exploring how to marketize data. At present, there are still many shortcomings in the definition of data property rights, market allocation and security protections.

The definition of property rights of data mainly refers to the rights of the owners of data resources, such as ownership, usage and profit rights of data resources. Currently, we don’t have laws and regulations that fully and clearly define the property rights of data, and the lack of clear boundaries in data assets will restrict the value and market development of data.

In recent years, China’s internet platforms have developed rapidly, and the data they hold also has seen exponential growth. The rapid development of online applications in the “post-COVID-19 era”, like remote working and instant messaging, will continue. Meanwhile, traditional enterprises will further accelerate their digital transformation, and internet platform companies will also accelerate their ecological development. Such a trend will generate a large amount of data.

At the same time, the vigorous development of cross-border trade in the next few years will also generate a large amount of commercial data. How to activate the potential of data elements has become a very pressing question.

China’s 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) and long-range objectives through the year 2035 propose to further activate the potential of data to help build China into a cyber power. In this regard, I personally have the following four suggestions.

To start with, more effort is needed to speed up the introduction of relevant laws and regulations to clarify data rights. It is recommended that relevant departments, on the premise of complying with existing laws and regulations, unveil detailed rules and implementation methods to clarify data rights and protect data property rights in industrial segments.

Second, a hierarchical and distributed platform for data sharing, circulation and trading should be built.

Third, efforts are needed to unveil guidelines and rules on the pricing of data resources.

Fourth, further promotion of the self-discipline management of data use by commercial enterprises is necessary.

Recently, US social networking platform Facebook has been accused of harming the mental health of youth and promoting the spread of hate speech, which intensified political polarization. A super platform, like Facebook, holds massive user registration information, huge transaction information, application information and other data resources. Its capabilities have greatly surpassed the strength and capabilities of traditional multinational companies.

At the same time, some internet platform companies rely on their global monopoly status to damage the legitimate rights and interests of users and citizens. Therefore, the European Union has become more stringent in the supervision of above-mentioned behaviors. In December, the EU issued two drafts of the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act to further regulate market behavior and restrict unfair competition behavior by internet platform companies. Therefore, antimonopoly efforts are important responsibilities for every economy and every country in the world, to maintain healthy market development, social fairness and justice.

China’s internet platform companies are growing rapidly. Market research company International Data Corp predicts that by 2025, China’s data will account for 27.8 percent of the world’s total, ranking first worldwide. On the one hand, internet platforms have promoted the accelerated development of the digital economy and digital governance, providing power for us from sharing the “demographic dividend” to sharing the “digital dividend” and then to sharing the “smart dividend”. But on the other hand, some platforms in fields like trade and content consumption have, in fact, constituted monopolies.

At present, China is taking a multipronged approach to increase antimonopoly oversight on internet platforms, further safeguarding fair competition in the market and protecting relatively disadvantaged companies. I personally have the following four suggestions.

First, data governance and big data antimonopoly efforts must make up the central concept of “people-centered”. In fact, without data security, there will be no network security, national security, economic security or social stability, and the interests of the masses cannot be guaranteed. Data governance and data antimonopoly efforts should be used to safeguard the interests of people.

Second, data governance and big data antimonopoly efforts should focus on promoting the healthy development of the socialist market economy.

Third, China’s data circulation supervision should be strengthened systematically.

Fourth, China should actively participate in global digital governance. The current global digital governance situation shows a trend of regionalization and politicization, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. More and more countries levy “digital taxes”, which restrict cross-border flow of global data and seriously affect the development of the global digital economy.

A report from the Brookings Institution shows that in the past 10 years, the cross-border flow of global data has contributed more than 10 percent to global economic growth. It is estimated that the contribution of cross-border global data flows to economic growth is expected to exceed $11 trillion by 2025.Therefore, we must actively promote the cross-border flow of global data under the concept of building a “community with a shared future in cyberspace” for mankind.

We should actively participate in the construction and formulation of relevant organizations, standards and rules for global digital governance.

The writer is director of the China Internet Network Information Center.

The views don’t necessarily reflect those of China Daily.


  • China
  • data
  • development
  • digital
  • global
  • governance
  • internet
  • market
  • platform
  • rights

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