China’s Chief of the Cyberspace Administration is increasing regulatory pressure on the operators of any websites that allow users to publicly “express opinions or that have the ability to mobilize society.” While many internet companies already have to share a significant amount of data with the Chinese government to help hunt down criminals, this new law seeks to target information from all online users including log-in log-out times, real names, IP addresses, and hardware information, as well as other online activity. The goal is to ensure that the government is never caught off guard by large protests and to put a stop to any users who push opinions that could lead to social unrest. While on the surface this appears to be another step towards the implementation of China’s “Social Credit System,” which is set to go into effect in 2020, it could easily be utilized for other purposes by the Chinese government.
As Beijing’s reach in cyberspace continues to expand through ISPs, website operators, and hosting services it could possibly begin to be utilized to also monitor the online activities of foreign business professionals who travel to China. Beijing could justify monitoring their activity through claims that they could be attempting to spread information malicious to the Chinese government or cause unrest. This would give the government “just cause” to access data which could expose industrial secrets or put foreign professionals at further risk for targeting in industrial espionage.