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China tightens Internet control with national security law

China has unanimously approved a wide-ranging national security law that grants authorities vague jurisdiction to secure the country’s information technology.

The move is likely to irk the international business community, which has argued China is trying to lock out foreign technology firms, as well as digital rights advocates, who see the law as an attempt to censor public dissent.

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The law will give Beijing officials the authority to make networks and computer systems “secure and controllable,” according to multiple reports.

How exactly the government will do that remains unclear.

A May draft of the law gave the state power to protect “national Internet space sovereignty, security and development interests.” The final law has not yet been released.

Zheng Shu'na, vice chairwoman of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the National People’s Congress (NPC) standing committee, defended the law as necessary to counter “ever-growing security challenges,” the official Xinhua news service quoted her as saying.

China maintains it is one of the world’s biggest targets for hackers.

“Externally speaking, the country must defend its sovereignty, as well as security and development interests, and … it must also maintain political security and social stability,” Zheng added.

But U.S. businesses are accusing the country of using “national security” to cover up what is essentially economic protectionism.

“The goal is for Chinese companies to ultimately supplant foreign technology companies both in China and in markets around the world,” the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a think tank that has received funding from technology companies like Google and IBM, said in a statement Wednesday. “The claim by the central government that this law is necessary to ensure IT security in China is simply false.”

The national security law is part of a slate of controversial cybersecurity measures China has advanced in recent months.

A separate rule could require foreign companies operating in China to install “backdoor” access to their encryption, as well as hand over any source code for inspection.

China is also attempting to reduce its banking system’s reliance on foreign technology.

The Obama administration succeeded in getting China to at least pause the banking technology rules after sending a number of senior officials, including Treasury Secretary Jack LewJacob (Jack) Joseph LewApple just saved billion in tax — but can the tax system be saved? Lobbying World Russian sanctions will boomerang MORE and Commerce Secretary Penny PritzkerPenny Sue PritzkerThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders steamrolls to South Carolina primary, Super Tuesday Biden's new campaign ad features Obama speech praising him Obama Commerce secretary backs Biden's 2020 bid MORE, to China to protest the law.

Many see the laws as part of an even broader, long-standing campaign to restrict the flow of digital information at home and diminish reliance on foreign technology.

“China in the last couple of years has moved in such a repressive manner,” Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenBiden tax-hike proposals face bumpy road ahead Section 230 worked after the insurrection, but not before: How to regulate social media Senate Democrats leery of nixing filibuster MORE (D-Ore.) told reporters in April. “I look around the world [and] there are few if any countries that have moved so rapidly to reduce access to the Internet and the free flow of information.”