“With a billion Internet users, China would see itself outweighing the Americans”

On November 25, a special kind of stock exchange opened in Shanghai. We do not exchange actions, but data. Telecoms operators, an airline, an e-commerce giant, an electricity supplier, a bank, a geolocation application… About twenty companies have, from day one, put their data on this market. About a hundred companies are in the loop, including the Anglo-Saxon consulting firms Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers. One of the first transactions carried out on the Shanghai Data Exchange (SDE) was the acquisition of data from the Shanghai power grid by a Chinese public bank.

Since, in 2006, the British mathematician Clive Humby called the data ” new black gold ”, The battle rages between the XXI’s Rockefeller title contenderse century. With a billion Internet users, China would see itself outweighing the Americans. In 2017, the XIXe Chinese Communist Party Congress even called the data “Fifth factor of production”, after capital, labor, land and technology.

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The role of the SDE is none other than to enhance and monetize this new factor. China is not the first to try to structure this market. “There are smaller-scale initiatives in Europe and South Korea in particular. Not in the United States, where companies do not go through a marketplace that serves as a neutral intermediary. The Chinese initiative is original in its size and in its ambition, which is clearly to take the lead in this area ”, notes a French observer present on site.

The nation’s “strategic asset”

This BDS is indeed only part of the puzzle. Far from being just a commodity, data is considered a “strategic asset” of the nation. A law entered into force on 1er November is inspired by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) applied in the European Union since 2018. It allows the Chinese to have a copy of their data, to control their use, to correct them if necessary, to destroy them if possible.

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But the law also makes it much more difficult to transfer this data abroad. Any transfer requires a prior check, but also an agreement of the interested parties. This is where the problem lies. “Consent makes international transfers impractical because, even if a minority of individuals oppose the transfer of their data, this would require the establishment of local computing and storage capacities”, recently argued, in the magazine Fortune, Nader Henein, lawyer at Gartner law firm.

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