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Justifying a Privacy Guardian in Discourse and Behaviour: The People’s Republic of China’s Strategic Framing in Data Governance


The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) approach to data governance, centred on data sovereignty, is much debated in academic literature. However, it remains unclear how the PRC’s different state actors justify this approach. Based on an analysis of the discourse and behaviour of the PRC’s state actors through strategic framing theory, their role as a privacy guardian can arguably be described as strategically constructed. The Chinese government and legislative bodies have tailored their communications to present themselves as champions of individual privacy, aiming to secure support for state policies. This strategic framing encompasses four mechanisms: the reframing of privacy threats through political narratives; legal ambiguities; selective framing; and the implementation of censorship to influence public discourse. An examination of how the Chinese government responded differently to data breaches in the cases of Didi and the Shanghai National Police Database leak highlights the Chinese government’s efforts in maintaining framing consistency to construct itself as a guardian, rather than a violator, of individual privacy.
Keywords: data sovereignty; cyberspace governance; strategic framing; privacy; security