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data regulations in china

IT Compliance in China: A Guide for International Businesses

China’s data protection regulations have evolved significantly in recent years, posing new challenges and considerations for international businesses. With the Cybersecurity Law (CSL), Data Security Law (DSL), and Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL), companies must adapt their IT operations to meet stringent requirements on data handling, storage, and cross-border transfers. This article provides a detailed overview of these regulations and their impact on IT compliance in China, cloud services, IT procurement, licenses, IT project management, and support.

Key Regulations

Cybersecurity Law (CSL)

The Cybersecurity Law, effective since June 2017, is a cornerstone of China’s regulatory framework for data protection. The CSL focuses on data localization and cybersecurity, requiring network operators to store certain data within China and mandating security reviews for cross-border data transfers. Critical Information Infrastructure (CII) operators must adopt stringent data protection measures and undergo regular security assessments.

Data Security Law (DSL)

Effective from September 2021, the DSL categorizes data based on its importance to national security and public interest. This law mandates that “important” data undergo security assessments before being transferred overseas. It also requires businesses to classify, store, and protect data according to its sensitivity, with severe penalties for non-compliance.

Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL)

The PIPL, effective from November 2021, is akin to the EU’s GDPR. It regulates the collection, use, and storage of personal information, granting individuals rights over their data. The PIPL imposes strict consent requirements and mandates that personal data be stored within China unless specific conditions for cross-border transfer are met.

Impact on IT Operations

IT Management

International businesses must adapt their IT management strategies to comply with Chinese regulations. This includes appointing Data Protection Officers (DPOs) responsible for ensuring compliance with CSL, DSL, and PIPL. Companies must establish robust data security systems, conduct regular security assessments, and maintain detailed records of data processing activities.

Cloud Services

Data localization requirements significantly impact cloud services. Companies must ensure that data related to Chinese operations is stored on servers within China. This may necessitate setting up separate cloud infrastructures for Chinese data, leading to increased costs and complexity. Edge computing solutions can help by keeping data within specific geographic locations.

IT Procurement

When procuring IT services and products, businesses must ensure that vendors comply with Chinese data protection laws. This includes verifying that cloud service providers can store data locally and that software solutions meet security standards. Contracts should include clauses that address data protection responsibilities and compliance with Chinese regulations.


Obtaining licenses for IT operations in China involves demonstrating compliance with data protection laws. This includes undergoing security assessments and obtaining approvals for cross-border data transfers. Companies must also ensure that their IT systems and processes align with regulatory requirements to avoid penalties and operational disruptions.

IT Project Management

IT projects in China must incorporate data protection considerations from the outset. This includes conducting risk assessments, implementing data security measures, and ensuring compliance with localization requirements. Project managers must stay updated on regulatory changes and adjust project plans accordingly to maintain compliance.

IT Support

Providing IT support in China involves ensuring that support activities comply with data protection laws. This includes securing remote access to systems, protecting personal and sensitive data during troubleshooting, and maintaining logs of support activities. Support teams must be trained on compliance requirements and equipped to handle data securely.


China’s data protection regulations impose significant compliance requirements on international businesses. Companies must adapt their IT management, cloud services, IT procurement, licenses, IT project management, and support strategies to align with CSL, DSL, and PIPL. By proactively addressing these requirements, businesses can mitigate risks and ensure smooth operations in the Chinese market.

Preparing for IT Compliance in China

Conduct a Comprehensive Audit

  • Action: Perform a thorough audit of your current data handling and storage practices.
  • Reason: Identify any areas where your operations may not comply with CSL, DSL, and PIPL.
  • Implementation: Use internal teams or external consultants specializing in Chinese data protection laws.

Develop a Data Localization Strategy

  • Action: Plan how to store and process data within China to comply with data localization requirements.
  • Reason: Ensures compliance with local laws and mitigates the risk of data breaches.
  • Implementation: Set up local data centers or use cloud service providers with infrastructure in China.

Appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO)

  • Action: Designate a DPO responsible for overseeing compliance with data protection laws.
  • Reason: Provides a dedicated resource to manage compliance and address any issues that arise.
  • Implementation: Choose someone with expertise in both international and Chinese data protection regulations.

Train Your Teams

  • Action: Educate your employees about the importance of data protection and the specifics of Chinese regulations.
  • Reason: Ensures that all team members understand their roles in maintaining compliance.
  • Implementation: Conduct regular training sessions and provide ongoing education resources .

Review and Update Contracts

  • Action: Ensure that contracts with vendors and partners include clauses addressing compliance with Chinese data protection laws.
  • Reason: Protects your business by making sure all parties are aware of and adhere to regulatory requirements.
  • Implementation: Work with legal experts to draft or update contracts appropriately.

Monitor Regulatory Changes

  • Action: Stay informed about any updates or changes to China’s data protection laws.
  • Reason: Helps your business remain compliant and avoid penalties for non-compliance.
  • Implementation: Subscribe to legal and regulatory updates from trusted sources and consult with legal advisors regularly.

By taking these proactive steps, international businesses can effectively navigate the complexities of China’s data protection landscape, ensuring compliance and securing their operations in this crucial market.

The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. While we strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, it is important to consult with a qualified legal professional to address specific legal concerns and ensure compliance with all applicable laws and regulations in China and your home country. We do not assume any liability for actions taken based on the information provided herein.

Citations and Resources:

1.China Data Protection Regulations 2023-2024

2.Data Protection & Privacy Trends 2024

3.EY on China’s Data Privacy Rules

4.SCMP on China’s Data Laws

5.Data Protection for Industrial and Telecom Companies

6.EY Global Insights

7.Top Concerns for Foreign Businesses in China

8.Impact of China’s Data Security Law

9.China’s Cybersecurity Legislations Impact

10.How Data Protection Regulations Impact Multinational Companies

11.CSIS on Chinese Cybersecurity Standards

12.New Regulations for Outbound Cross-Border Data Transfers

13.Cybersecurity and Data Protection Monthly Update

14.Lexology on Data Protection

15.Impact of China’s Data Privacy Law

16.IBA on Data Compliance Challenges

17.LEAF Legal on China’s Data Protection

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