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China

Mao’s ‘people’s war’ revisited : China’s military cyber power and ‘cyber militias’

Mao’s ‘people’s war’ doctrine stressed that China’s military advantage lay in mobilising the vast Chinese population

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China’s military cyber power capabilities are increasingly being augmented by a civilian dimension to increase their potency.

However, in this relatively new domain for civil–military integration, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is taking action to consolidate state control over China’s cyber power projection.

Just before the 19th CCP Congress in 2018, the Cyberspace Administration of China released one of the most authoritative policy documents to date outlining Chinese thinking on cyberspace.

The document outlines the need to ‘promote the deepened development of military–civilian integration for cybersecurity and informatisation’. It also features instructions to implement civil–military integration systems, cybersecurity projects and innovation policies.

This policy document followed the creation in January 2017 of the Central Commission for Integrated Military and Civilian Development.

Under the instructions of the Commission, China’s first ‘cybersecurity innovation centre’ was established in December 2017. Operated by 360 Enterprise Security Group (one of China’s primary cybersecurity companies), the centre’s remit is to foster private sector cooperation to ‘help [the military] win future cyber wars’.

The strong civil–military dimension of Chinese military power has existed since the formation of the People’s Republic of China. Mao’s ‘people’s war’ doctrine stressed that China’s military advantage lay in mobilising the vast Chinese population.

The push to leverage the civilian sector for the development of China’s military cyber capabilities is gaining steam outside of military circles as well.

The National Outline for Medium and Long Term Science and Technology Development Planning (2006–20) emphasises the importance of integrating civilian and military scientific and technical efforts.

The PLA has heeded such calls, deepening its partnerships with the civilian telecommunications sector — especially ZTE and Huawei — and developing further links with universities.

China’s ‘cyber militias’ are one of the clearest products of this shift

These groups have grown to feature a collective membership of more than 10 million people since the turn of the millennium, and are often based in universities and civilian corporations. While the PLA endorsed cyber militias as a concept in 2006, these groups will likely be restrained to cyber espionage as opposed to offensive cyber operations, given the risk of potentially undermining the work of regular PLA cyber units.

Of the cyber militias, China’s infamous ‘patriotic hackers’ are perhaps the most well known. While these hackers can be a useful tool in hampering state adversaries, they can also often be unruly, erratic and heavy-handed.

These hackers are typically driven by popular nationalism, as demonstrated by instances like the cyber stoushes between US and Chinese hackers that followed the US EP-3 incident in 2001.

The Strategic Support Force (SSF) has been the PLA’s answer to mitigating the risk of erratic cyber militias while still harnessing their capabilities. Established in December 2015 to merge and centralise all of the PLA’s space, cyber and ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) capabilities in one body, the SSF has also assumed control over a number of PLA research institutes.

The integration of these civilian entities into formalised state structures like the SSF represents a desire by China to mitigate the volatility of these hackers.

But this integration means the PLA and the Chinese state will have to forego plausible deniability when their hackers’ operations are uncovered by other states. The improved US ability to attribute cyber operations to Chinese actors, combined with Washington’s budding approach of sanctioning major Chinese state-owned enterprises in retaliation, has made Beijing realise it needs to run a tighter ship.

The centralisation that Beijing is pursuing is a manifestation of the so-called ‘corporate state’ that increasingly defines the Chinese political system. Here, the CCP acknowledges the presence of societal interest groups as an inevitable result of a pluralising society. At the same time, the CCP seeks to co-opt or direct the behaviour of these entities to serve its ends and maintain stability.

The civil–military dimension of China’s cyber power projection has been sporadically apparent since the early 2000s. But it is only recently that we are seeing concerted efforts to leverage the civilian sphere and, more importantly, to centralise and organise it so that it can consistently serve China’s defence and military aims.

Author: Nicholas Lyall, ANU

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Lingang New Area in Shanghai Introduces Whitelists for Data Export to Enhance Cross-Border Data Flows

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The Lingang New Area in Shanghai has introduced trial general data lists to simplify data export procedures for companies in automotive, biopharmaceuticals, and mutual funds sectors. This aims to reduce regulatory burdens and facilitate cross-border data flows, following efforts to improve business environment for foreign companies.


The Lingang New Area in Shanghai has introduced trial general data lists aimed at simplifying data export procedures for companies in the automotive, biopharmaceuticals, and mutual fund sectors. These lists outline specific scenarios where businesses can export data out of China with reduced regulatory burdens, bypassing more stringent compliance requirements.

The Lingang New Area of the Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone (FTZ) has released the first batch of trial lists of general data for three sectors, facilitating cross-border data flows for companies operating in the area. This announcement closely follows the release of the Tianjin FTZ’s Negative List, which similarly seeks to facilitate cross-border data flows for companies operating in the FTZ by specifying the types of data that are restricted from being exported without certain approval procedures.

The first batch of general data lists has been provided for the fields of intelligent connected vehicles, biopharmaceuticals, and mutual funds, three sectors with a significant presence in the Lingang New Area. The general data lists are scenario-based, meaning they outline various situations in which data export is required and freely permitted. These include scenarios, such as multinational production and manufacturing of intelligent connected vehicles, medical clinical trials and R&D, and information sharing for fund market research.

The general data lists will be implemented for a trial period of one year from their date of implementation, May 16, 2024.

In January 2024, the Lingang New Area announced a new system for data management and export in the area, which included the release of two data catalogs, one for “important” data and one for “general” data. This new system will help facilitate cross-border data transfer (CBDT) for key sectors in the area by delineating the types of data that are restricted or subject to additional compliance measures to be exported (through the important data lists) and data that can be more easily exported (through the general data lists).

In March, the area released the Measures for the Classification and Graded Management of Data Cross-border Flow in the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone Lingang Special Area (Trial) (the “Lingang CBDT Management Measures”), which outlined the rules and requirements for this new system, including how companies can use the general data lists.

These developments follow many months of efforts by the central Chinese government as well as local authorities to improve the business environment for foreign companies in particular, a core part of which has been resolving headaches surrounding data export.

This article is republished from China Briefing. Read the rest of the original article.

China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors into China and has done since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Please contact the firm for assistance in China at china@dezshira.com.

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The New Company Law brings substantial changes with implications for new and existing foreign invested enterprises and stakeholders. Foreign investors must assess if adjustments to existing structures

Despite recent economic challenges, many organizations’ China operations provide unparalleled access to one of the world’s largest and most competitive global supply chains. Over the past 30 years, a significant number of foreign invested enterprises (FIEs) have been established in China. As of the end of 2022, the number of FIEs operating in China had exceeded 1.12 million.

Compared to their domestic counterparts, FIEs demonstrate greater caution regarding legal revisions and are diligent in making swift adjustments. This stems not only from the closer scrutiny FIEs face from regulatory authorities but also from their commitment to compliance and maintaining a competitive edge.

Clearly, there has been a shift in China’s corporate regulations—from merely encouraging an increase in the number of companies to focusing on attracting mature enterprises and higher-quality investments. While the transition from a broad approach to a more refined one may cause short-term challenges, it ultimately benefits the company’s long-term development. By returning to the original intent of setting registered capital, it not only protects the interests of creditors but also shields shareholders from the operational risks of the company.

In China’s foreign investment landscape, while most FIEs exercise commercial prudence in determining registered capital—factoring in capital expenditures, operational costs, and setting aside surplus funds—some opt for higher registered capital levels to avoid future capital increase procedures. This typically involves lengthy document signing and registration changes, lasting 1-2 months.

Joint ventures (JVs) often impose stricter payment deadlines for registered capital in their articles of association to ensure both parties’ simultaneous contributions align with operational needs. Conversely, wholly foreign-owned enterprises (WFOEs) tend to favor flexibility in payment deadlines, often allowing full payment before the company’s operational period expires.

Given these circumstances, despite the generally stronger capital adequacy among foreign companies compared to domestic entities, many FIEs could be affected by the new capital contribution rules.

This article is republished from China Briefing. Read the rest of the original article.

China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors into China and has done since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Please contact the firm for assistance in China at china@dezshira.com.

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Foreign Tourist Groups on Cruise Ships Fully Permitted Visa-Free Entry in China

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China will allow visa-free entry for foreign tourist groups arriving by cruise ship at 13 ports along the coast, starting May 15, 2024. Visitors must stay with the same ship and in permitted areas for up to 15 days. This policy aims to boost tourism and facilitate high-quality development in the cruise industry.


China’s immigration agency announced that it will grant a visa-free policy for foreign tourist groups to enter China by cruise at all cruise ports along the coast of China, starting May 15, 2024. The tourist group must remain with the same cruise ship until its next port of call and stay within permitted areas for no more than 15 days.

Effective May 15, 2024, the National Immigration Administration (NIA) has officially implemented a visa-free policy for foreign tourist groups entering China via cruise ships. This progressive move aims to enhance personnel exchanges and foster cooperation between China and other nations, furthering the country’s commitment to high-level openness.

Under this policy, foreign tourist groups, comprising two or more individuals, who travel by cruise ship and are organized by Chinese domestic travel agencies, can now enjoy visa-free entry as a cohesive group at cruise ports in 13 cities along the Chinese coast.

The tourist group must remain with the same cruise ship until its next port of call and stay within China for no more than 15 days. The eligible areas for this policy are coastal provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities) and Beijing.

Furthermore, to support cruise tourism development, seven additional cruise ports—Dalian, Lianyungang, Wenzhou, Zhoushan, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Beihai—have been included as applicable ports for visa-free transit.

The recent implementation of the visa-free policy for foreign tourist groups entering China via cruise ships is poised to have several significant effects. The policy will provide crucial support for the cruise economy and the overall cruise industry. By facilitating smoother travel for foreign tourist groups, it acts as a catalyst for high-quality development in this sector.

Additionally, under this policy, international cruise companies can strategically plan their global routes by designating Chinese port cities, such as Shanghai, Xiamen, and Shenzhen, as docking destinations. This move is expected to attract more cruise ships to Chinese ports, ultimately bringing in a larger number of international visitors to the Chinese market.

This article is republished from China Briefing. Read the rest of the original article.

China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors into China and has done since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Please contact the firm for assistance in China at china@dezshira.com.

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