News and Commentary

Chinese Communist Party’s Data Crackdowns May Be Worsening Supply Chain Crisis
CHINA-BEIJING-XI JINPING-JULY 1 MEDAL-AWARD CEREMONY (CN) Chinese President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China CPC Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, delivers an important speech at the ceremony to present the July 1 Medal, the Party's highest honor, to outstanding Party members at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, June 29, 2021. The award ceremony of the July 1 Medal was held Tuesday morning at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (Photo by Ding Lin/Xinhua via Getty Images) Xinhua News Agency / Contributor
Ding Lin/Xinhua/ Xinhua News Agency / Contributor via Getty Images

The Chinese Communist Party’s recent crackdown on data processing is reportedly worsening the supply chain crisis.

As the movement of consumer goods remains restricted by lockdowns in Asian manufacturing hubs, analysts are noticing that ships in Chinese waters are vanishing from databases.

CNN Business explained:

Usually, shipping data companies are able to track ships worldwide because they are fitted with an Automatic Identification System, or AIS, transceiver.

This system allows ships to send information — such as position, speed, course and name — to stations that are based along coastlines using high-frequency radio. If a ship is out of range of those stations, the information can be exchanged via satellite.

But that’s not happening in the world’s second-largest economy, a critical player in global trade. In the past three weeks, the number of vessels sending signals from the country has plunged by nearly 90%, according to data from the global shipping data provider VesselsValue.

Many suspect that the sudden lack of shipping data was triggered by the Chinese government’s crackdown on the international flow of data. CNN Business continued:

The State Council Information Office, which acts as a press office for the country’s cabinet, did not respond to a request for comment about why shipping providers were losing access to data. But analysts think they’ve found the culprit: China’s Personal Information Protection Law, which took effect November 1. It requires companies that process data to receive approval from the Chinese government before they can let personal information leave Chinese soil — a rule that reflects the fear in Beijing that such data could end up in the hands of foreign governments.

The law doesn’t mention shipping data. But Chinese data providers might be withholding information as a precaution, according to Anastassis Touros, AIS network team leader at Marine Traffic, a major ship-tracking information provider.

Indeed, Chinese officials have introduced stringent new regulations on several industries in the span of a few months.

In the interest of reducing costs for families, the Chinese government banned for-profit tutoring, essentially gutting the $120 billion industry overnight. Previously, parents solicited tutoring services throughout a child’s education to prepare them for the National College Entrance Examination, which determines whether a Chinese student is eligible for college education. 

Meanwhile, the Chinese government began regulating the nation’s real estate sector to ensure that families can afford housing. Among other reforms, the regime planned to increase mortgage rates, accelerate the development of public housing, and scrutinize private investors. According to President Xi Jinping, “housing is for living in and not for speculation.”

“China’s property sector has been one of the biggest sources of discontent and the government is hell-bent on controlling prices so it doesn’t lead to social unrest,” Liao Ming of Prospect Avenue Capital told Al Jazeera. “The measures echo the policy curbs in education in that they are aimed at easing public angst against inequity.”

In a further update to the “One Child Policy” — which is now creating a demographic crisis in China — officials said that couples are now allowed to have up to three children. Births in the nation have fallen in recent years, and the country’s “total fertility rate” stands at 1.3 children per couple — below the “replacement rate” of 2.1 children per couple. 

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