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Google and Meta, two of the world’s largest social media and tech companies, have come under mounting pressure to reduce their operations and activity in China over the country’s recently implemented national security law. The law, which has been widely criticized by the West, is seen as a way for Beijing to increase restrictions on what companies can and cannot do inside the country.
In particular, the law has raised concerns that it may force Chinese nationals to assist state intelligence efforts if they’re employed by US companies with operations there. This has caused many companies to seek to distance themselves from the threat of potential spying or other unwelcome intrusions from the government.
Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Google products and TikTok, has been blocked by authorities in China as part of its “firewall” network. In response, Meta has attempted to move its key executives to Singapore and the United States, although the majority of its engineers are still based in China. Meta has also reportedly hired a Washington lobbyist to plant stories focusing on the potential threat of TikTok, a Chinese-owned social media giant, to young users.
Google’s presence in China is limited primarily to aiding local businesses outside of the country. However, caution must still be exercised in hiring employees in the country due to their potential vulnerability to the national security laws.
This is especially true, as the laws may not extend beyond Chinese borders in the case of global subsidiaries of Chinese companies and other non-Chinese organisations. Robert Potter, co-chief executive of cybersecurity and intelligence firm Internet 2.0, says that many companies are already reducing their reliance on Chinese supply chains to minimise the dangers.
Foreign tech companies must be aware of the potential risks of operating in China under the scope of the national security law, and exercise caution in doing so. This means considering the potential implications of employing or engaging with people in the country, and thoroughly vetting any personnel based there.
Ultimately, all companies affected by this law should consider carefully how they can reduce any potential risks due to its implicit implications.