China Cyber Sovereignty and Cross-Border Digital Trade

March 31, 2017

O’Melveny partner Ron Cheng wrote the March 31, 2017, article “China Cyber Sovereignty and Cross-Border Digital Trade,” which was posted in the Lawfare column “DayZero: Cybersecurity Law and Policy.”

As the US re-examines its trade policy, commentators following US-China affairs have acknowledged an important area that has not received as much attention as the bilateral trade in goods, but may one day rival it: the digital economy. 

“Commentators have noted that both countries could gain substantially with freer digital trade flows, including a suggestion on the China-US Focus site that implementing a bilateral agreement could have salutary effects through expansion into a free trade zone,” Cheng writes. 

While Chinese governmental statements suggest that China’s policy could be consistent with this goal, there are obstacles including China’s new Cyber Security Law, which stipulates that “personal information” and “other important data” gathered or produced by “critical information infrastructure operators” in their mainland operations be stored within mainland China. 

“The law broadly deems those infrastructure operators to include public communication or information services, finance, or other infrastructures that, if destroyed or compromised, could seriously danger national welfare and the people’s livelihood or public interest,” Cheng writes. 

Cheng, who is co-located in O’Melveny’s Hong Kong and Los Angeles office, focuses his practice on anti-corruption and data security and privacy matters.