China: Cross-Border Data Flows Security Assessments in China

China has issued for public comment draft standard-like guidelines to govern cross-border data flows to further implement China's heightened concern over national security and cybersecurity, as embodied in the National Security Law (2015), Cybersecurity Law (effective June 1, 2017) and related laws and regulations. These Guidelines, open to public comment through June 27, were formulated by Technical Committee 260 (TC260) and issued by the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) and the Standardization Administration of China (SAC). The Guidelines would apply to all Network Operators in China, including foreign-invested enterprises and providers of services to Networks. They would subject cross-border data flows covering a very wide range of subject matters to security assessments and privacy consents. If the Guidelines are adopted without extensive revision, they present a major challenge to the ability of companies and other entities involved in China to engage on a timely basis across borders in business and other activities not generally deemed to be national security-related. As such, the Guidelines threaten to undercut China's stated commitments to globalization.


The Guidelines, termed the Information Security Technology—Guidelines for Data Cross-Border Transfer Security Assessment (the Guidelines), set forth the procedures, principal assessment concerns, and methods for cross-border data transfer security assessments. The Guidelines would be applicable to Network Operators for the conduct of security assessments of cross-border transfers of personal information and important data, and be applicable to industry regulators and supervisors to guide and supervise Network Operators in their security assessments of cross-border transfers of personal information and important data [Article 1]. Network Operators are broadly defined as the owners and operators of networks as well as providers of services to networks [Article 3.1]. Networks are defined in the Cybersecurity Law as the systems comprising computers or other information terminals and equipment that collect, store, transmit, exchange and process information under specified rules and procedures.

Data under the Guidelines is defined as personal information and important data in an electronic form collected and generated in the course of operations in China [Article 3.2]. Network Operators would be required to follow the Guidelines in the conduct of security assessments of personal information and important data to be transferred overseas, discover security issues and risks, and take prompt action to prevent the flow of personal information overseas without consent that may compromise the lawful rights of the subjects of personal information; and to prevent important state data from being stored overseas without a security assessment and approval by the applicable regulators to prevent adverse impacts on national security [Preamble]. "Overseas" would include the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau. The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), industry regulators and supervisory departments may also take the Guidelines as reference for security assessments conducted in their respective spheres of responsibility [Article 1].


The Guidelines consist of five articles that encompass the scope of application, definitions, assessment procedures and principal assessment concerns, together with lengthy Appendices A and B which define important data across 28 industry sectors and security assessment methods for outbound data transfer risks.

The Guidelines define such terms as Important Data, Sensitive Personal Information, Data Cross-Border Transfer (sic), Provide [Provision] and Data Desensitization. Important Data includes data related to national security, economic development, and societal and public interests, as further detailed in the 28 industry sectors listed in Appendix A. Cross-border data transfers would not include overseas data transiting China without being modified, processed or disposed of in China [Article 3.6]. "Provision" would include both voluntary data provision overseas by Network Operators as well as provision overseas by the users of product and service functions provided by Network Operators. Network Operators providing data that has previously been disclosed to the public in accordance with law would not be deemed Provision [Article 3.8]. Note here that "in accordance with law" is not equivalent to "in the public domain" as information in the public domain that is subsequently deemed to have been improperly made public would be subject to a security assessment.

Assessment Procedures and Principal Assessment Concerns

Network Operators would be obligated to conduct a security assessment when the products and/or services involve data provision to overseas institutions, organizations or individuals, or when there are relatively large changes in the purpose, scope, type or quantity of the products/services for which outbound data transfer security assessments have previously been conducted, or when there are changes in the data recipients, or in the event of major security incidents [Article 4.1]. Network Operators would be required to formulate outbound data transfer plans to specify the purpose, scope, type, scale, information system, country in transit, basic conditions of data recipients and countries/regions where they are located, and security control measures before conducting a data transfer [Article 4.2].

Principal assessment concerns include the plan's legality, propriety and risk controllability [Article 4.3]. Outbound data transfers will be required to satisfy specific legal and proper requirements in effect at the time of transfer. The legal requirements are: (i) not prohibited by law or regulation from outbound transfer; (ii) in compliance with international treaties or agreements; (iii) consented to by the subject of personal information, except in emergency circumstances when the subject's life or property are endangered; or (iv) not prohibited from outbound transfer by the cybersecurity, public security or state security departments in accordance with law. Proper requirements to be satisfied at the time of transfer are: (i) implementation of essential measures by the Network Operator acting within its authorized scope of business; (ii) compliance with the obligations of the underlying contracts; (iii) compliance with law; (iv) assistance with the administration of justice; and (v) other requirements to safeguard cyber sovereignty, national security, societal and public interests, and to protect the lawful rights of citizens. Requirement (v) in particular grants the authority broad latitude to restrict cross-border data transfers [Article 5.1].

Assessments of risk controllability would need to give consideration to data attributes and the potential for occurrence of security incidents after outbound transfer, cross-border data transferors' technological and management capability, data recipients' security protection capability, and the political and legal environment in countries/regions where the data recipients are located [Article 5.2.6]. The volume, category and scope of data and technical processing are all principal concerns. Personal information may have a derivative value after data collection when a numerical threshold of subjects of personal information is exceeded [Article]. Categories of important data to be assessed include those involving nuclear facilities, chemical biology, defense and the military industry, public health, large projects, the marine environment and sensitive geographical data, critical information infrastructure (CII) system gaps, and more [Article]. Appendix A sets out the scope of important data for 28 industrial sectors, including oil & gas, coal, petrochemicals, nonferrous metals, steel, geography, power, communications, electronic information, public health, postal express mail, finance, food and drugs, statistics, meteorology, environmental protection, broadcast media, marine environment, and e-commerce.

If the requirements for legality and propriety or risk controllability are not satisfied, Network Operators may modify their outbound transfer plans or lower the risks of outbound transfers by streaming the data content, reducing the level of sensitivity, restricting disposition by the data recipient, or other means [Article 4.6].

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

*** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.