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Daily Digest | When it comes to big tech firms, just invest…igate?

Written by The Uptake Published on     2 mins read

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What do app removals tell us about China’s changing tech sector?

Hi. It’s Brady again.

For those who keep an eye on the intersection of national policy and tech in China, it’s been a dizzying few days.

The day after the Chinese Communist Party’s July 1 centennial celebrations, the Cyberspace Administration of China said it was investigating Didi over cybersecurity issues. Then, over the weekend, Didi’s app was removed from app stores. On Monday, three more companies—recruitment platform operator Boss Zhipin as well as trucking platforms Yunmanman and Huochebang—found themselves in the same situation.

Notably, the Cyberspace Administration didn’t just invoke China’s cybersecurity law. It also labeled these cases as matters pertaining to national security, adding a heavier dimension to the series of probes.

On top of all of this, the unignorable fact is that Didi, Boss Zhipin, and Full Truck Alliance, which was formed after a merger of Yunmanman and Huochebang, all went public in New York last month. Didi’s IPO, in particular, was the second largest listing of a Chinese company in the US, after Alibaba.

It’s unclear how long the probes will take, and what demands regulators will set out for the companies in their crosshairs. Data regulation is becoming stricter in China, which is framed as a good thing for users. At the same time, there is an element of national and governmental ambition entangled with these developments, as the Chinese government has for years laid the groundwork for recognized corporate names to float their shares at home instead of in New York.

In this murk, it’s easy to get sidetracked because of ticker symbols and cross-border monetary flows. But the most fundamentally important matter in this developing situation is that regulators—in China and elsewhere—are defining the limits to which tech companies can control data of all sorts, whether it’s related to individuals, infrastructure, or topography.

Much in this space is still being shaped, and Beijing is closing the regulatory lag that has given tech companies an open field to become massive with few strictures. This issue is at the core of the future for the intersection of tech and policy, one that KrASIA will follow in the days to come.

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