- Recently, China’s legislature approved sweeping amendments to China’s anti-espionage law, broadening the scope of what may be defined as activities related to spying and national security.
China’s anti-espionage law
- The recent amendments are to China’s 2014 anti-espionage law.
- Article 1 of the law says the idea behind the legislation is “to prevent, stop and punish espionage conduct and maintain national security.”
- China broadened the law’s scope, with one of the changes declaring that “all documents, data, materials, and items related to national security and interests” will be protected on par with what is deemed state secrets.
- The transfer of any information deemed by authorities to be in the interest of what they define to be “national security” will now be considered an act of espionage.
- The latest change “improves the regulations on cyber espionage” and “clearly defines cyberattacks, intrusions, interference, control and destruction” as espionage.
- Other changes would include “clarifying the responsibility of national security organs in guiding and arranging publicity as well as provisions to strengthen the protection of personal information in counter-espionage work.
- The amendments come amid a string of high-profile cases involving journalists, foreign executives, as well as international companies in China, who have come under the lens of authorities on national security grounds.
- The expanded law follows the Xi Jinping government’s increasing focus on “security” and a recent policy shift now emphasises the dual importance of “development and security”, rather than a focus solely on economic development.
- The amended law is likely to have a chilling impact both within China and beyond.
- Chinese journalists, academics, and executives who frequently engage with foreign counterparts are likely to think twice before doing so, at least without explicit government sanction
- Unrestricted engagement between Chinese and foreign scholars, which has already become limited in the Xi Jinping era, is likely to become even rarer.
Impacts on India
- Indian companies with a presence in China, particularly in sectors deemed to be sensitive such as pharma and IT, will likely need to review their exposure to risks under the expanded law and broadened definitions of “national security”, particularly amid deteriorating relations between the neighbours.