Overseas access restricted to province of china vs taiwan website – Resources

Some outside users of an official Chinese website that provides economic and demographic data on the southeastern province of Fujian, across from Taiwan, say their access has been restricted because Beijing has turned its attention to information security.

The reason for the move was not immediately clear, but it came after external users of some Chinese financial and academic databases were similarly denied access, and Beijing targeted consulting firms over national security concerns.

More than half a dozen users familiar with the matter said that some users outside the mainland were unable to access the website of the Fujian Statistics Bureau.

A researcher in Singapore said he first encountered the restrictions in March, while others said they only learned about them recently.

The official website of Fujian, which has an economy of $790 billion compared to Switzerland, has regularly published data on topics such as economic growth, energy consumption and real estate sales, according to users and site overviews.

The data has been an important source of detailed information for some research firms, economists and foreign financial institutions that track the world’s second-largest economy, said the users, who wished to remain anonymous because the issue is sensitive.

Such restrictions, at a time when China is trying to prop up an economy only slowly recovering from strict pandemic measures, appear to be weighing on foreign investors already reeling from tighter regulations and geopolitical tensions.

“If the Fujian issue is a well-thought-out decision, it will set a precedent that other local or central government agencies are likely to follow,” said Shen Sun, who studies China and East Asian affairs at King’s College London.

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Users said that while China has made fewer government websites accessible to foreign users in recent years amid rising tensions with the United States, restricting access to the Fujian government website is a rare move.

Asked for comment, but declined to comment, said an official of the Fujian Provincial Bureau of Statistics.

The State Council Information Office, which handles media inquiries on behalf of the Chinese government, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Bureau of Statistics, did not immediately respond to faxed requests for comment.

Reduce risk

Some companies are trying to reduce their risks in the wake of Beijing’s crackdown, which has besieged Shanghai-based consultancy Capvision this month, particularly as a major overhaul of anti-espionage laws goes into effect on July 1.

But the increased focus on information security is also due to the latest data indicating that economic growth is slowing, while the number of unemployed youth has reached a record high.

Wind Information Co., one of China’s largest providers of financial data, has blocked some overseas users from accessing certain business and economic data since late last year, Reuters reported this month.

The important academic database, China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI), also restricted access to foreign subscribers from April 1.

However, other official websites of regional statistical offices are usually available to foreign users at present, according to users. A Reuters survey found that the Fujian website is accessible from the mainland.

Data from Chinese provinces can help analysts and economists track regional trends, such as labor migration patterns, land and real estate sales, and industrial development.

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For example, the Fujian website also contains detailed data on the distribution of advanced and basic industries in the province, as well as census results that include the demographics of each city.

But its importance has overtaken that of other provinces as some foreign investors have watched it closely for signs of military action in the face of tensions in the Taiwan Strait, two Hong Kong hedge fund investors said.

The Policy Council of Mainland Taiwan declined to comment.

Sun added that there is a clear trend of foreigners’ access to domestic data being restricted by the ruling Chinese Communist Party for national security reasons.

“In the context of geopolitical tensions with the West and the party’s growing concern for national security, any dealings with the West can become a politicized affair,” he said. (Reporting by Hong Kong Newsroom and Joe Cash in Beijing; Editing by Sumit Chatterjee and Clarence Fernandez)

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