Missing Link: China’s New Data Protection Laws – A “4.0 Cultural Revolution”

In the second year of the pandemic, China passed its first online data protection law and a new data security law. It draws attention to itself with socialist-style algorithmic regulation. Borrowing from the general data protection regulation and European projects for the containment of large platforms cannot mask the fact that a user-friendly Internet is not the objective of Xi Jinping’s roundup.

What’s missing: In the fast-paced world of tech, it’s often time to rearrange the many news and backgrounds. On weekends, we want to take it, to follow the deviating paths of the current, to try different perspectives and to express nuances.

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In the fall of 2021, the large Chinese platform company Tencent found it necessary to determine the identity of a player. In the popular online game “Honor of Kings”, he had five opponents at one time – a so-called Pentakill – at night. The man had said he was 60 years old, and a whisper crossed the Chinese network, as reported by the American magazine The Atlantic in mid-November.

Admirers and envious people immediately suspected that behind the identity of the retiree was a teenager who had violated the ban on playing games for children and adolescents. The new law prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from playing on normal days. Only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and on public holidays, they are allowed to indulge their passion for one hour at a time. The National Press and Publications Administration (NPPA) responsible for games had already introduced time limits in 2019 and added them again in the pandemic year of 2021.

Of course, video games have satisfied the entertainment need of the public and “enriched the spiritual and cultural life of the people,” asserts the original rationale of the NPPA. At the same time, however, young people were increasingly suffering from an unhealthy gambling addiction. There must therefore be regulations, to protect young people and also because it is the best way to implement “the spirit of Secretary General Xi Jinping’s instructions”. According to the American scientist Regina Abrami, quoted by The Atlantic, according to this “spirit” it is not appropriate for the Chinese “to play video games all day long”.

It looks a bit like the Cultural Revolution 4.0. The two new regulations, the fan culture pronounced on the Internet want to put an end to it, as well as the ban in 2021 of commercial tutoring for young Chinese vying for university places. Instead of paid classes and foreign teachers, the party, the State Council and the Ministry of Education decree better instruction in schools across the country and free time well spent. The offers of courses abroad are strictly prohibited.

The isolation of the West is also directly visible to scientists in Germany today. Chinese colleagues have withdrawn from joint legal projects, writes a German lawyer at the request of heise online. The Chinese contribution to a recently released publication on regulating platforms around the world is missing. The country is threatened with becoming a black box, reinforced by less direct exchanges during the pandemic. There is currently a lot of material to trade.

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