Welcome to Transpacifica Issue 8. I was part of two new joint pieces at New America’s DigiChina since last edition: An updated translation of China’s Cybersecurity Law, and a very wonky but wide-ranging assessment of progress in implementing the regime surrounding that law.
Regular readers will know that one of my professional roles is as coordinating editor of DigiChina. We started the project a year ago this month, and our latest DigiChina Digest newsletter (sign up for monthly updates here) recounted the posts so far. This edition of Transpacifica is devoted to spreading the word about this still-relevant body of work.
Yes, it’s shameless self-promotion, but it’s not just that: DigiChina has published joint work by 12 contributors from as many organizations. I’m grateful to everyone who has devoted their time to this work, and there’s a lot more on the docket. –Graham
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A year of translating and analyzing a digital China
- All eyes on AI. Beginning with a full translation of the State Council New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan and accompanying analysis from diverse perspectives, artificial intelligence has been a major focus for DigiChina. We followed with a translation of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology’s action plan for AI development through 2020, an in-depth assessment of China’s progress so far in AI and semiconductors, and analysis and translation on Chinese efforts to shape international technical standards in AI fields. DigiChina is proud to partner with the Harvard Berkman Klein Center and MIT Media Lab’s Ethics and Governance of AI Initiative, which generously supports our work.
- Stated intentions. Chinese officials put serious effort into their ideological and political pronouncements, and ideas about the digital economy are no exception. DigiChina translated a key ideological blueprint for “cybersecurity and informatization work” before the 19th Party Congress, an unpublished speech by Politburo Standing Committee Member Wang Huning, and official coverage of Xi Jinping’s latest major speech on digital development and governance. In his speech, we observed Xi signaling resolve in the face of U.S. pressure to abandon some high-tech development efforts.
- A question of interpretation. In each of these major political speeches and documents, the Chinese government and Communist Party have emphasized the goal of building China into a “cyber superpower.” Or is that a “cyber great power”? In our first Lexicon feature, we traced the term’s lineage and described the challenge of translating a central slogan on cyberspace.
- Know your bureaucracy. When China’s cyberspace regulators got an upgrade from “central leading group” to “central commission” status, DigiChina weighed the likely implications. And when major Chinese tech firms joined their top regulator to launch a “Federation of Internet Societies,” we translated their joint declaration.
- Sweating the details. Slogans and speeches attract attention, but much of the real action is in how regulators implement the often vague guidance of the Cybersecurity Law and other high-level documents. DigiChina charted six intersecting regulatory systems surrounding the Cybersecurity Law and scrutinized draft and trial rules on “critical information infrastructure,” outbound transfers of data, foreign purchases of Chinese intellectual property, and financing for tech firms. We also summarized a new paper on what is—and what isn’t—happening in the area of “social credit” in China.
- You can always find the latest DigiChina posts here.
The Transpacifica newsletter is produced by me, Graham Webster, a senior fellow with Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center and fellow with New America, where I am coordinating editor of the DigiChina project, working from a home base in Oakland, California. The opinions expressed here are my own, and I reserve the right to change my mind. For three years and 131 issues after its founding in February 2015, this newsletter was known as U.S.-China Week. It now appears biweekly, delivered by free e-mail subscription.