Four takeaways from China's newly planned national data bureau
Updated 14:22, 09-Mar-2023
Chen Yurong, Liu Wei

China will establish a national data bureau, according to a reform plan submitted Tuesday to the national legislature for deliberation.

What are the functions of the national data bureau?

According to the plan, the proposed bureau will be responsible for advancing the development of data-related fundamental institutions, coordinating the integration, sharing, development, and application of data resources and pushing forward the planning and building of a digital China, digital economy and digital society, among others.

The bureau will be administered by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China's economic planner. Certain existing functions of the Office of the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission and the NDRC will be transferred to it, the plan said. 

What is the purpose of creating the national data bureau?

Duan Haixin, a professor at the Institute for Network Sciences and Cyberspace at Tsinghua University, sees great meaning in the bureau's establishment.  

It will improve the efficiency of data management and governance by coordinating and developing data exchange standards, Duan told CGTN in an e-mail interview.  

This will help improve data application and sharing, digging data value and boosting data application efficiency to support China in developing a digital economy and society, he explained. 

Data-related functions are currently dispersed among different governmental bodies in China.

Upon the establishment of the bureau, resources can be integrated to fully push forward the building of a digital China and developing the country's economy, Duan said. 

Data has become another key factor of production alongside land, labor, capital and technology, said Yang Chang, chief analyst of Zhongtai Securities, financial news agency reported.

China aims to make important progress in constructing a digital China by 2025 and rank among the top nations in digital development by 2035, according to a digital development plan released on February 27.

Data security 'more important than ever'

As China's digital economy scale climbed to second globally, major security incidents, such as data leakage, have also grown in recent years, Lei Nan, an official at the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, said on Tuesday at an event on data security in Shanghai. 

Data security is an important issue in the digital age, and the bureau can provide stronger protection for data security to prevent data leakage and abuse, Duan said. 

Duan said he is more concerned about the governance of data security after the establishment of the bureau. 

"At present, how to regulate the collection, storage, processing and destruction of users' sensitive data does not have mature technical means, management standards and supervision mechanisms. I hope the bureau can do something about this," he said.

Big data is at the core of the digital economy, Zhou Hongyi, chairman of Chinese internet security firm 360 Group, echoed, adding that all operations in cities will be data-driven; thus, "data security has become more important than ever."

The establishment of the bureau would be conducive to promoting the safe and orderly flow of data factors from the top-level design, Zhou told Shanghai Securities News.

Duan sees the establishment of the bureau as a "proactive and positive action in a global scale."

"The action can further promote the construction of a global data governance system for services to global data security and governance," he said. 

"The bureau could strengthen data security cooperation of China with other countries and international organizations to jointly deal with global data security threats," Duan said, adding that the establishment of the bureau could also promote the development and prosperity of global digital economy.

A section of the Chengdu Intelligent Computing Center in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China, February 10, 2022. /CFP
A section of the Chengdu Intelligent Computing Center in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China, February 10, 2022. /CFP

A section of the Chengdu Intelligent Computing Center in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China, February 10, 2022. /CFP

Big data, AI industries to benefit 

Duan believes that the bureau will promote innovation in data application and industrial development, such as big data, artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things.

Echoing Duan, Pan Helin, co-director of the Digital Economy and Financial Innovation Research Center at the International Business School at Zhejiang University, said the bureau will promote processes, including data collection, storage, processing, cleaning, and pre-labeling for the big data industry, reported.

Regarding the AI industry, the bureau will boost data algorithm and computing power, which includes computing power of terminal intelligent chips, cloud computing and data centers, Pan said.

He said this will also benefit the information and communications technology equipment industry in the future.

(CGTN's Guo Meiping and Liu Tianwen have also contributed to the story.)

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