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Professor Liu Kongzhong Discussed Sino-American Trade War, Big Data and Algorithm

On 26 September, 2019, Professor Liu Kongzhong talked about the sino-American trade war, big data and algorithm at the 103rd Professor Salon of Renmin Law School.

Professor Liu first pointed out that the eruption of sino-American trade war can be attributed to China¡¯s market access or restrictions. Firstly, most American companies that collect and process data, such as Google, Facebook and news media companies, are still excluded from the Chinese market. At the same time, China has carried out anti-monopoly investigations against a number of transnational corporations, the number of which has been increasing annually since 2013. Secondly, America has accused China of violating the global trade order based on the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and of setting up market access barriers. Thirdly, China is lack of legislations in the telecommunications area. The only relevant one is the Telecommunications Regulation of the People¡¯s Republic of China that was implemented in 2000 by the State Council. China,s long-promised telecommunication law has yet to be enacted.

Professor Liu then turned to the question of the legal nature, access and transaction of big data, and the balance between data free flow and data localization. He pointed out that the primary issue concerning big data is its legal nature and the necessity to protect it. If the protection is necessary, further questions would be the ownership of big data and how to protect it. On the issue of data access and transaction, the compulsory access to big data should only be used as a last resort when the data controllers achieve market dominance and fail to reach a voluntary permission agreement within a reasonable period of time. Professor Liu also introduced relevant rules and regulations concerning data storage, cross-border transfers, and data localization in the United States, the European Union, China, and the WTO.

Later on, Professor Liu mentioned a few challenges that algorithms have brought to the current data-driven situation. First of all, an algorithm may collect and process data beyond its initial purpose if not designed correctly. Secondly, it is difficult for us to verify whether an algorithm is as scientific and value-neutral as the Internet giants have claimed. Professor Liu cited the keyword advertising case of ¡°Happiness Space¡± and pointed out that every country and region is faced with great challenges on how to audit the algorithms of technology giants such as Google, Facebook, Alibaba, and Tencent. He also provided two methods of algorithm auditing, one of which is to examine the algorithms related to a specific case, and the other is to carry out audits without requiring the disclosure of the source code.

Professor Liu further stated that trade disputes and technological competition are tightly interwoven. A solution to the current trade disputes cannot be achieved unless we also find a way out on the technological competition, which is very hard in a short round. He claimed that three measures should be taken by China to deal with the trade disputes. Firstly, China should open the Internet and telecommunications markets to WTO members, including the United States. Foreign data giants such as Amazon, Google, Facebook and Twitter should be permitted to enter or return to the domestic market and compete fairly with their Chinese rivals. Secondly, China should never divide the market into an American camp and a Chinese camp (the Belt and Road member states). Otherwise, it would split the Internet and the internet of things. Thirdly, China should take the recently signed joint declaration seriously, and undertake to carry out electronic commerce negotiations based on the WTO framework.

Professor Liu also addressed the conclusion of the International Algorithm Treaty and the establishment of the World Algorithm Conference during the Q&A section.

The 103rd Professor Salon was moderated by Professor Han Liyu. More than ten professors and scholars have attended the Salon.

(Editor: LIU Honglu, QU Yinsheng, Chloe Shortall)

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