China blocks access to public data to counter information from US think tanks

China has stepped up its efforts to crack down on foreign sourcing of data in a move partially motivated by the US think tank’s efforts to monitor hard-to-find information about Beijing and its “military-civilian merger” strategy, according to a Wall Street Journal report found Monday.

As tension and competition between the US and China continues to escalate, Beijing has recently taken steps to limit overseas access to its databases and tighten its grip on Western narratives relating to China.

A revised espionage law late last month has sparked concern from the international business community, which has argued that the new guidelines could make doing business with the world’s second-largest economy more risky.

Chinese Xi Jinping

Chinese President Xi Jinping salutes during an event at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on October 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, archive)


Western consulting, legal, IT and accounting firms may find it more difficult to do business with Beijing following President Xi Jinping’s move to expand China’s power over private entities and control access to financial data and records.

But according to unnamed sources familiar with Beijing’s efforts, the heightened restrictions are apparently due to growing concern among top Chinese intelligence officials that US analysts have been able to glean using publicly available information.

China’s push for a “military-civilian merger” – which the State Department describes as “aggressive” – ​​has been of particular interest to US think tanks.

The department detailed China’s strategy as a ploy to remove “barriers between China’s civilian research and commercial sectors, and its military and defense industrial sectors” in a move to improve its “People’s Liberation Army (PLA) into a ‘world-class military’ by 2049.”

But Beijing’s military integration into the commercial sector doesn’t just use its own private sphere.

Chinese People's Liberation Army

New recruits of China’s People’s Liberation Army attend a farewell ceremony at a train station in Ganzhou, Jiangxi province, March 16, 2023. (China Daily via Reuters)


China’s notoriously duplicitous policies towards private foreign companies and its possible access to information about entities have long worried Western officials, prompting US think tanks and analysts to scour publicly available information for answers.

A June 2022 report from the Center for Security and Emerging Technology titled “Silicon Twist” apparently struck Chinese officials as particularly concerning as it focused on how the Chinese military was gaining access to “advanced chips” made by private American companies at Taiwan and South Korea, sources said The Wall Street Journal.

Analysts were reportedly able to detail how the PLA gained access to these chips after viewing thousands of publicly available purchase records and financial data.

The information these think tanks are able to acquire has been used by US lawmakers when it comes to implementing Washington’s trade and security policies with Beijing.

Chinese military civilian

A person cycles past a giant screen broadcasting news footage of Chinese vessels participating in ‘Joint Sword’ exercises around Taiwan in Beijing, April 8, 2023. (Reuters/Tingshu Wang)


Findings from the Center for a New American Security were also reportedly used in testimony presented to a congressional group, dubbed the US-China Security and Economic Review Commission, on the military’s use of artificial intelligence by the of Beijing to strengthen its combat capabilities.

But as Beijing continues to restrict access to financial data and information, analysts and investors are increasingly concerned about the even greater potential that exists for an ambiguous future when it comes to the United States’ economic and political relationship with China.

Isaac Stone Fish, CEO of Strategy Risks, a China-focused venture firm, told Fox News Digital: “Beijing wants companies to increasingly partner with the Communist Party of China, while Washington wants them to reduce their exposure to the Party. It’s an important decision every major American company must make: Corporations can no longer stand by.

“They have to navigate one way or the other. They also have to understand that both Beijing and Washington want them to choose,” he added.


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