European Union businesses have voiced their apprehensions regarding China’s data laws, citing issues like the “lack of clarity” and cumbersome procedures, according to statements made by European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova on Tuesday.
In a significant move this July, China expanded its counter-espionage law, imposing a ban on the transfer of any information concerning national security and interests.
However, the law refrained from defining the specific terms, leaving many in the business world perplexed.
Additionally, the law broadened the definition of espionage to encompass cyberattacks against state organs or critical infrastructure, further intensifying concerns among foreign businesses.
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s heightened emphasis on national security, especially his crackdown on consultancies and due diligence firms, has created an atmosphere of uncertainty for foreign companies operating in China, as they struggle to determine the boundaries of compliance with the evolving legal landscape.
Jourova highlighted several problematic aspects of the Chinese data laws. First and foremost, the absence of clear definitions, such as what constitutes “important data,” has left businesses in the dark.
Moreover, the lack of clarity regarding how the law might be contravened compounds the uncertainty.
Additionally, lengthy processing times, with some procedures taking up to 45 days or even longer, have added to the frustrations of European businesses.
During the EU-China High-level Digital Dialogue held on Monday, Jourova, who co-chaired the event, announced the intention to propose the establishment of an information link between the European Union and Chinese authorities.
This link would serve to assist EU businesses in comprehending the intricacies of Chinese data laws and ensure compliance.
Jourova emphasized that China occupies multiple roles in the digital arena, including being a partner, competitor, and systemic rival.
However, the role of systemic rivalry has taken precedence, necessitating open communication channels between China and Europe to address disagreements effectively.
In late July, China’s commerce ministry conducted briefings for representatives from various international chambers of commerce and foreign firms, elucidating the provisions of the new anti-espionage law.
The ministry reiterated China’s commitment to fostering a fair, transparent, and predictable business environment in the country.
As European businesses navigate the complexities of China’s evolving data laws, dialogue and cooperation between the EU and China remain crucial to ensure that the concerns of foreign companies are adequately addressed, promoting a stable and conducive environment for international business.