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

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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 a socialist-style algorithm regulation. Borrowings from the General Data Protection Regulation and the European plans to contain the large platforms cannot hide the fact that a user-friendly Internet is not the goal of Xi Jinping’s sweep.

What is missing: In the rapid world of technology, there is often the time to rearrange the many news and backgrounds. At the weekend we want to take it, follow the side paths away from the current, try different perspectives and make nuances audible.

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In the fall of 2021, the large Chinese platform company Tencent found it necessary to determine the identity of a gamer. In the popular online game “Honor of Kings” he had five opponents in one go – a so-called Pentakill – at night. The man had stated to be 60 years old, and a murmur went through the Chinese network, as the US magazine The Atlantic reported in mid-November.

Admirers and envious people immediately suspected that behind the pensioner identity was a teenager who had violated the ban on playing games for children and adolescents. The new law prohibits everyone under the age of 18 to play at all on normal days. Only Friday, Saturday and Sunday and on public holidays they are allowed to play their passion for an hour at a time indulge. The National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA) responsible for the 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 public need for entertainment and “enriched the spiritual and cultural life of the people,” states the NPPA’s original justification. At the same time, however, young people were increasingly suffering from unhealthy gambling addiction. So there has to be regulation, to protect the youth and also because it is the best way to implement “the spirit of the instructions of the Secretary General, Xi Jinping”. According to the US scientist Regina Abrami, quoted by The Atlantic, according to this “spirit” it is not appropriate for the Chinese to “play video games all day.”

Sounds a bit like the Cultural Revolution 4.0. Both new regulations, the pronounced fan culture on the Internet want to put an end to it, as well as the 2021 ban on commercial tutoring for young Chinese competing for university places. Instead of paid courses and foreign teachers, the party, the State Council and the Ministry of Education are decreeing better instruction in schools in the country and well-used free time. Course offers abroad are strictly prohibited.

The isolation from the West is also directly noticeable for scientists in Germany today. Chinese colleagues have withdrawn from joint legal projects, writes a German legal scholar upon request from heise online. The Chinese contribution to a recently published publication on platform regulation around the world is missing. The country is threatened with becoming a black box, reinforced by less direct exchange during the pandemic. There is currently plenty of material for exchange.

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