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ASIA-PACIFIC REGIONS


Not going to ride: China’s internet regulator launched a probe into the ride-hailing app Didi after it attempted an initial public offering in New York in June


over these Chinese companies”. China has been no stranger to screening


inbound foreign investment. In December 2020, China’s National Development and ReformCommissionannouncednewdetails for foreign investment screening on the basis of national security. More broadly, FDI screening mechanisms


have peaked over the course of the pandemic, but it seemed that cross-border IPOs, whereby growing businesses look overseas for deeper capital markets, were spared the protection- ism curse. According toUnctadandRefinitiv data, cross-


border IPOs reached more than $16bn in Q1 2021, having doubled from the previous quarter.


Data geopolitics National government concerns over cybersecu- rity involving Chinese businesses and invest- ments have been growing more pronounced over the past few years. Most notably, under Donald Trump’s administration, telecommuni- cations giant Huawei was targeted over its 5G expansion and put on an “entity list” alongside other Chinese companies. In 2019, the US government also forced the


sale of dating app Grindr fromits then Chinese owners. Last year, India’s government banned the use of 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok. But in future, such concerns may well play


August/September 2021 www.fDiIntelligence.com


out without China whatsoever, Mr Green says, whoexpects this to becomea prominent geopo- litical issue as the internet moves from an “unregulated ‘growth-at all costs’model” to pri- vate companies being regulated by nation states, “like utilities or public service provid- ers”.


“I do think the rest of the world is going to


catch up with China, particularly the EU,” he says. “They’re doing quitewell with the General Data Protection Regulation, and they don’t have their own tech champions to worry about.”


Meanwhile, Joe Biden’s administration is


currently drafting a digital trade agreement with countries in the Indo-Pacific to serve as a bulwark against China’s regional influence, sources told Bloomberg earlier this month. China’s Ministry ofCommerce has also recently published guidelines for local companies on overseas investment in the digital economy. This trend towards data sovereignty is a far


cry from former US president Bill Clinton’s remark in the early 2000s that China’s Great Firewall project to ringfence the internet was a Sisyphean task. “Good luck! That’s sort of like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall,” he quipped. As more regulation is drafted over cyberse-


curity and technology companies, governments everywhere may well start resourcing their own Jell-Oand nails.■


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