Over the weekend, the Chinese Communist Government (CCP) froze access to data sources for firms overseas, following a series of reports produced by United States research institutes which found the information they were coming across alarming.
As tensions between the U.S. and China continue to heat up, the CCP is tightening its grip on sensitive data, despite the Biden administration’s efforts to encourage investment into China this year.
Investors say there is a lack of transparency and information coming from Beijing.
American think tanks, research firms, and consultancies looking for information on the Chinese military and its economy have relied on domestic sources to explore specific issues. However, in recent months, Chinese companies like Wind Information Company have stopped providing information and data to foreign clients.
American think tanks and consulting firms like Bain & Co., Mintz Group, and Capvision have been under surveillance by Chinese officials since Beijing’s recent counter-espionage law passed in April, which expanded the regime’s spying capabilities.
Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Dakota Cary, a China-focused consultant at the Krebs Stamos Group who previously worked for CSET at Georgetown, explained that taking crucial data off the table makes public discourse on China “drift further from the truth.”
“It’s a reckless move by China to limit access to the data,” Cary told the WSJ. “The U.S.-China relationship will be made worse by this decision.”
In March, the Cyberspace Administration of China alerted providers to freeze overseas access to sensitive information, including patents and statistics. Organizations from prominent universities like the University of California, Berkeley (UCB) said they received notices warning about future restrictions on services.
According to a UCB Library notice, content types previously viewed as mundane have “now been flagged by the Chinese authorities to be subject to government review.”
“The duration of such suspensions is not yet known, but we have been told that access will resume upon CAC determining that Chinese publishers have addressed their requirements for the review of the affected content types,” the notice said.
A policy brief published by CSET in June called “Silicon Twist” caught the attention of the CCP, which observed the Chinese military’s access to American-designed chips for artificial intelligence models.
The authors of the report said that they analyzed thousands of purchasing records and outlined ways the U.S. government could cut off access.
A second report from the same outlet that caught the attention of Chinese officials was how Beijing employed programs to find and recruit talent from around the globe to support its strategic interests.
Speaking to the WSJ, CSET spokesperson Lynne Weil said that the think-tank relied on sources, including China National Knowledge Infrastructure, but noted that she had no insight into what may have triggered information restrictions.
With China increasing its military presence in the South China Sea and expanding to the Middle East and Eastern Europe, experts say that the CCP is seeking to topple America’s presence on the international stage.
In Congress, Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate continue to warn about the CCP’s growing influence, calling on the President and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to assist Taiwan and other Asian allies worried about potential conflict with Beijing.