How Is Information Security Provided in China?
Over the past two decades, the People’s Republic of China has paid special attention to ensuring the information security of the state and society.
Ever since the events in Tiananmen Square in 1989, when the student demonstrations in Beijing were actively supported by the world press, the Chinese leadership has realized the power of information interference from outside.
Currently, Beijing itself is already using the tools of “soft power” to achieve the goals of foreign and domestic policy. In particular, the mass protests of the population in Hong Kong in 2015 (the so-called “Umbrella Revolution”) were successfully neutralized by the Chinese authorities without the use of heavy weapons, exclusively with the help of police means and
In the article, we will consider how the Chinese cyber shield protects China’s national interests.
We’ve already talked about internet censorship in China. You can read more about it here.
Against the background of the intensive development of digital technologies in the modern world, many sociopolitical problems have noticeably worsened. One of them is the degree of freedom of citizens from control by state bodies and the protection of personal data. Most of the reproaches in this area go to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, but according to experts, China, as a more technologically and financially developed power, may well become a platform for testing the model of totalitarianism of the 21st century.
Along with traditional spheres of influence, China is paying more and more attention to control over cyberspace. This state of affairs is due to the growing dependence of China’s foreign policy security on digital technologies. In addition, China is actively promoting high-tech projects.
Currently, many countries of the world, including China, are developing their own theoretical framework in the field of cybersecurity. One of the main problems of global cyberspace at the present stage is the lack of an international legal system that establishes norms and rules of conduct in this area.
China has adopted and is using the Cybersecurity Law (2017). The main purpose of the adoption of the law is the protection of the national “cyber sovereignty” of the People’s Republic of China. Its main provisions include the following aspects:
- Server and service providers should promptly inform users and the relevant competent authorities of any known security vulnerabilities and take the necessary measures to eliminate them.
- If servers collect personal data, suppliers are obliged to notify users about it.
- The collection and storage of personal data of users should be carried out exclusively for the purposes officially designated by the internet service provider.
- Disclosure, modification, deletion, and transfer of data to third parties are prohibited, except for carrying out the listed operations at the request of the user himself.
- Anonymity of users is excluded due to the introduction of mandatory verification requirements for access to the network.
- Special attention is paid to the security of critical areas (public communication and information services; illegal use and leakage of data which may pose a serious threat to national security).
- The requirements for the professional training of employees of information infrastructure facilities are being tightened, and a ban on data storage outside China is being introduced.
So, the adoption of the law has led to increased state control over the activities of Chinese and foreign companies on the internet.
The leadership of the People’s Republic of China pays considerable attention to ensuring the internal security of the state and carries out activities aimed at improving the unified intelligence and information space in the interests of controlling foreign citizens and local residents in the country. It seems reasonable to say that breakthrough technologies in this area have become widespread in the PRC.
The main functions of the unified intelligence and information space in the national security system of the People’s Republic of China are countering the activities of foreign intelligence services in China, protecting strategically important facilities, preventing crimes, and monitoring public security.
Currently, inside the Chinese unified intelligence and information space is a set of automated security subsystems:
- An automated video monitoring system
- A tracking system via Sharp Eyes smart devices
- A social credit system
The above subsystems automatically process various types of information about individuals and send it for systematization into a single database — the Public Security Police Cloud.
Social credit system
The social credit system (SCS) implies the formation of an individual rating of public trustworthiness for each individual citizen. In particular, in order to accumulate information about residents of the PRC, a special database is used that reflects their financial situation; their behavior at work, during studies, in public places, at their place of residence, and in the family; medical services received; social circle; and habits.
When compiling a social portrait of a citizen of the People’s Republic of China, their queries in search engines, their publications and comments on social networks, their subscriptions to electronic and print media, the contacts list in their phone, and their history of visiting websites are also taken into account. Any attempts to overcome the firewall that restricts the Chinese segment of the internet are also considered.
If the results of the analysis indicate actions that go beyond the norms of behavior accepted in society, an individual may receive the status of “suspicious.” The system automatically transmits a warning to the Public Security Police Cloud, and the person becomes the object of special attention from security services and law enforcement agencies.
In addition, according to the instructions of the state, depending on the rating of the SCS, organizations will implement a differentiated approach to providing services to the population by providing discounts, bonuses, and other benefits. At the same time, it is planned that unreliable citizens will be subjected to educational measures in the form of fines, full or partial blocking of various services, and restrictions on access to products presented on the market.
The rating is also taken into account by law enforcement agencies and government agencies when hiring, promoting, and deciding on dismissal. It is expected that the social credit system will be applied to both individuals and legal entities.
The state’s eye
By the end of 2023, it was planned to install about 800 million surveillance cameras in the country. Currently, the above system is being tested in several dozen cities with a population of less than a million.
In particular, in the city of Rongcheng (Shandong Province) with a population of 670,000 people, there is a single information center through which information about citizens is collected according to 160 parameters obtained from 142 local state and commercial organizations. In addition, since April 2018, equipment has been placed in all crowded places that allow identifying citizens wanted by law enforcement agencies.
At the same time, in the interests of the functioning of the SCS, amendments to the legislation are planned, according to which cars and electric vehicles manufactured in China must be equipped with devices that transmit information to the competent authorities about the location, route, and speed of movement of the car. At the same time, the installed multimedia system also allows you to secretly listen to conversations in the vehicle cabin.
Along with this, an intelligent behavior control system was tested in one of the schools in Hangzhou. The system monitors the psychological state of students, their activity, and their interest in classes. It is expected that this system will become part of the SCS and will allow identification of the most capable students from childhood, as well as socially disadvantaged children.
Digitalization to help
It should be noted that the broad integration of digital technologies into the lives of ordinary Chinese citizens contributes to the implementation of the project.
As of 2023, the number of internet users in China is 855 million people (about 60% of the total population). At the same time, among adult citizens, this indicator is estimated at more than 93%. Online purchases are regularly made by up to 600 million people, and the annual turnover of retail sales on the internet in China in 2022 amounted to 2.2 trillion US dollars.
The above factors allow the competent authorities responsible for ensuring the national security of the People’s Republic of China to seamlessly introduce new technologies to control citizens by imposing various services that require an internet connection, the use of a smartphone, and a bank card to access.
At the same time, despite the high level of information technology development in China, the start of full-fledged operation of the SCS in 2024 is considered unlikely, since the system is currently being tested in some cities of the country. By the end of 2023, it is expected to reach the provincial level. The most likely date for the launch of the unified intelligence and information space on a national scale is 2025-2027.
Hierarchy of trustworthiness
The use of the social credit system in the interest of ensuring the national security of the People’s Republic of China will allow special services and law enforcement agencies to freely carry out covert control of various aspects of the life of the population. It will also facilitate a strict hierarchy in various segments of the population, depending on the reliability rating, which will contribute to improving the level of public safety.
It seems likely that the above technologies will also be used in counterintelligence activities.