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China builds 'free trade data port' inclusive of submarine cable landing station

If the Middle Kingdom lets its data out, Beijing might as well be in control

China has earmarked ¥31.8bn ($5bn) to build the first free trade data port in the nation as it tries to bolster and control information flowing across its borders, the country's state-sponsored media says.

Known as the Nansha International Data Free Trade Port, the project basically involves plumbing in a series of undersea cables and network links, building a data center for handling cross-border data, and constructing industrial parks and labs for AI development, telecommunications, and more.

Construction of this 450-acre site is due to start in the first half of 2022 and be in operation by the end of 2025. The aim is to control the data flowing in and out of China.

"The Nansha International Data Free Trade Port project is to deploy a submarine cable landing station, a master control center, and a core transmission node in Nansha District by connecting multiple integrated networks of global submarine cables invested and constructed by AVIC Cloud Holdings, and at the same time realizes the first cross-border operation in China," said [mobile only] Nanfang Daily.

China has historically sought rigid control when it comes to cross-border data flow. For example, the nation has applied close scrutiny to companies that list and send data offshore over infosec concerns and required that any "core" data leaving China first seek approvals.

China did, however, apply for entry recently into a Digital Economy Partnership Agreement with New Zealand and Singapore, an agreement that would require China to allow free flow of information. ®

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