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China Cut Off Data After US Research Spurred Alarm, WSJ Says

Beijing curtailed access by overseas firms to Chinese data sources at least in part because of a series of reports penned by US research institutions that alarmed officials, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people with knowledge of the matter.

Senior officials grew concerned about research by American think-tanks based on public local data sources that focused on sensitive issues such as collaboration between the military and private organizations, the Journal reported. Those reports emanated from sources such as the Center for Security and Emerging Technology at Georgetown University and the Center for a New American Security, co-founded by the White House’s Indo-Pacific coordinator, the newspaper said.

Beijing is moving to tighten its grip on sensitive data as tensions with Washington mount. Despite the Xi Jinping administration’s push to improve global ties, investors in China continue to grapple with a lack of transparency and information across swaths of the world’s No. 2 economy. Think-tanks, research houses and consultancies seeking information on the world’s No. 2 economy have long relied on domestic sources to dive deeper into specific issues and industries.

But Chinese services such as Wind Information Co. in recent months stopped providing detailed data on the nation’s companies to overseas clients. That coincided with a clampdown on foreign firms that regularly gather information on businesses in the country. Consultancies are under the microscope in particular, with Beijing in recent weeks targeting the local offices of Bain & Co., Mintz Group and Capvision, according to media reports. And the government just last month passed a counter-espionage law that expanded the list of activities that could be considered spying.

The Cyberspace Administration of China, the country’s powerful internet overseer, notified data providers in March to restrict overseas access to sensitive information such as patents and statistics, the Journal reported, citing people who have consulted with Chinese authorities.

One report in particular that caught Beijing’s eye was a policy brief published by the Center for Security and Emerging Technology in June, titled “Silicon Twist,” according to the Journal. That report focused on the military’s access to American-designed chips intended to train artificial intelligence models. The authors said they analyzed thousands of purchasing records to formulate their conclusions, and described steps the US government could take to cut off that access.

Another, from the same center, zeroed in on how Beijing employed programs to track and recruit talent from around the globe to boost its strategic goals, the Journal reported. Representatives for the Center for Security and Emerging Technology and Center for a New American Security weren’t immediately available for comment outside regular business hours.

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