China plans to create a central agency to manage the flow of data within the country and abroad, the The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
Beijing intends to set up a new national data bureau that will become the top overseer of data-related issues, the journal reported. The moves central power under one agency rather than the bodies that now oversee information management, including the Cyberspace Administration of China.
Chinese officials have in recent years emphasized the need to strengthen their control over the valuable data generated by swaths of the economy, including its internet industry.
Globally, governments are increasingly trying to gain better visibility into and control over the flow of information, particularly as new data-reliant technologies such as artificial intelligence emerge.
President Xi Jinping is moving to consolidate the Communist Party’s hold over the world’s second-biggest economy, touting plans for sweeping changes to China’s bureaucracy and more influence within private firms.
The shift comes at a crucial time for China’s economy, which is growing at closer to its slowest pace in decades following years of strict Covid restrictions and a wider geopolitical spat with the US that has brought punitive tariffs, sanctions and export curbs on advanced technology.
Beijing has shown suspicion in recent years of the enormous amounts of data that private firms are amassing in the mobile era, a key reason behind a sweeping government crackdown on companies like Ant Group Co. and Didi Global Inc. that began in late 2020.
The envisioned data regulator would have powers to investigate the use of software algorithms to manipulate data or encourage internet addiction, the journal reported. It could also identify cybersecurity vulnerabilities and rule on whether multinational companies operating within the country can export data abroad, the newspaper added.
It’s unclear how the various agencies that now deal with data, from the CAC to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, will work with the new body, the journal said.