In February 2014, Xi Jinping announced the establishment of the Central Leading Group for Cybersecurity and Informatization, a new coordinating body centralising all digital policymaking. This marked the start of a new strategy to turn China into a ‘cyber power’, and signalled that digital affairs had become a matter of the highest political priority.
By 2017, China had created a fledgling body of policies that still form the nucleus of China’s digital policies today. Its most important components were strategies for national cybersecurity and international cyberspace cooperation, the Cybersecurity Law, and a five-year plan for informatisation. Internationally too, China has sought to play a greater role.
This report maps and contextualises the most recent developments in Chinese digital policymaking, shedding greater light on their motivations, institutional embedding and extent of implementation. The first section provides background information on China’s shifting domestic policy orientation, as well as the changes in its geopolitical outlook. The second reviews the evolution of China’s digital landscape, discussing how the growth in connectivity, the increased sophistication of digital products and services, and the emergence of new concerns have stimulated and accompanied changes in digital planning. The third section offers a detailed overview of changes in key digital policy fields, including cybersecurity, data protection, fintech, content control, technical standards and platform governance. The fourth section turns to the international perspective, assessing how Beijing has pursued its stated goal of gaining greater diplomatic influence on the global stage. The last section explores the implications of China’s digital policy for EU–China engagement.