The Chinese government is fully aware of the power of data and artificial intelligence (AI). To the extent that there is a creeping nationalization of the Chinese internet companies.

The Chinese internet groups, with all their power and money, have another reason to look somewhat anxiously to the future. It all has to do with data. And, above all, with power.

Jack Ma, known for Alibaba, was revered in China and worldwide as the standard-bearer of a new Chinese model. Until he said in a forum of the Chinese central bank that the Chinese financial regulators and banks are showing a pawnshop mentality. Ma thought it could be done differently and more dynamically.

Common thread

Ma disappeared from public view for months. Soon after the IPO of the Alibaba subsidiary Ant Group was called off.

Since then, it has become clear that President Xi Jinping’s government wants to tighten the country’s internet companies. In a ‘preliminary’ plan, supported by the Chinese National Bank, a joint venture is proposed to manage the data of the Chinese internet companies. The ‘pawnbroker’ grabs power.

The large internet groups can perhaps, be shareholders in that joint venture. They can also sit on the board, but the regulator must approve those representatives. That immediately makes it clear where the power is. Since data is so vital, some observers are talking about a creeping nationalization of the Chinese giants.

The data could be shared as part of strategic alliances with government-supported institutions. It is unclear exactly how the rights of internet users are concerned.

Platform companies

Xi Jinping previously said his government is looking at platform companies that are increasingly empowered by the data they collect. The power of big data and artificial intelligence has clearly permeated the political class.

It seems like an echo of the European and American criticism of the internet giants. Which in the meantime have become an essential piece of infrastructure and important for national security.

The question is whether citizens should be so much more relaxed when that data ends up in the hands of institutions controlled by the political government. In the case of Europe, I still dare to hope that the new data policy, which is in full swing, will have an eye for privacy and citizens’ control over their data. In a China that seems to be becoming increasingly authoritarian, that is a completely different story.

Disclaimer: all opinions in this article are of Harold Sullivan’s and not The Simple Herald.

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