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China Regulations – China's State Secrets Law (Second Revision)

This article is part of the series on China’s regulatory policy updates, reports and advertising laws. If you have missed out on any of the articles from this series, you can click the following titles to read more – Anti-Monopoly Crackdown, PIPL, Advertising Law, October Update, November Update, December Update, January Update (XiaoHongShu Bans 39 Brands), Medical Advertising, March Update, IP Location Regulations, Didi US$1.2 Billion Fine, Measures for Security Assessment of Data Export, Provisions on the Administration of Internet Pop-Up Information Push Services, Internet Protection of Minors.   

In a significant move to bolster national security and sovereignty, China's National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee has passed an updated version of its State Secrets Law, set to take effect on May 1, 2024. This development, announced by Xinhua on February 27, marks a critical step in the country's efforts to harmonize development with security, underscoring the importance of safeguarding national interests in an increasingly complex global landscape.

Structure and Key Highlights

  • General Principles: The law establishes the framework for identifying, classifying, and protecting state secrets, emphasizing the role of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in overseeing secrecy work and integrating a holistic view of national security.

  • Scope and Classification: It delineates the scope of state secrets, categorizing them into three levels based on their significance and potential impact on national security.

  • Confidentiality Measures: The legislation mandates robust systems for managing state secrets, including their creation, transmission, and destruction, ensuring that sensitive information is appropriately handled and protected against leaks.

  • Legal Responsibilities: A detailed section on legal liabilities underscores the consequences of violating the law, reinforcing the seriousness with which state secrets must be treated.

  • Supervision and Management: The law outlines the roles of various governmental bodies in supervising and managing the protection of state secrets, ensuring a coordinated approach across all levels of government and society.

The Revision: A Blend of Security and Innovation

The latest revisions to the State Secrets Law adhere to a holistic view of national security, integrating mature policies, measures, and practical experiences from the post-18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) into legal systems. This approach is aimed at fostering high-quality development in secrecy work and safeguarding China's sovereignty, security, and developmental interests.


One of the most notable aspects of the revised law is its reaffirmation of the CPC's leadership in guarding state secrets. It mandates the central secrecy work leadership body to oversee national secrecy work, coordinate major secrecy matters, and promote the legal construction of state secrecy protection. This provision is pivotal for the centralized and unified management of state secrets, ensuring that the nation's security apparatus operates efficiently and cohesively.


Precision and Scientific Approach in Classifying Secrets

The amendments introduce refined practices for classifying and declassifying secrets, emphasizing the necessity and reasonableness principles. They call for a scientific evaluation and timely adjustments based on changing circumstances, aiming for a more precise and scientific approach to secrecy classification. By improving the system for determining secret classifications and the authorization mechanism, the law aims to enhance accuracy and scientific basis in the protection of state secrets.


Furthermore, the revisions underscore the significance of regular audits, shifting from periodic to annual reviews, and clarifying legal responsibilities for failure to fulfil declassification review obligations. This change is instrumental in holding entities accountable for their roles in secrecy management and facilitating the reasonable use of information resources.


Emphasizing Innovation and Protection in the Digital Age

Recognizing the challenges and opportunities presented by technological advancements, the revised law places a strong emphasis on innovation and technical protection within the realm of state secrets. It encourages research and application of scientific and technological advancements in secrecy protection, highlighting the importance of protecting intellectual property rights in this field. Moreover, the law mandates that secret information systems be planned, built, operated, and maintained according to national secrecy regulations and standards, ensuring these systems are secure and regularly assessed for risks.


New Standards for Managing Secret Personnel

In response to the evolving characteristics and requirements of managing personnel involved in secrecy work, the amendments provide detailed provisions on the basic conditions, rights protections, and management requirements for secret personnel. These updates aim to ensure that individuals handling state secrets are not only qualified and capable but also protected under the law, reflecting the state's commitment to both security and the well-being of its personnel.

Global Context and Implications

The revised State Secrets Law represents China's proactive approach to addressing the multifaceted challenges of safeguarding state secrets in the modern era. By balancing development with security, emphasizing the scientific management of secrets, and fostering innovation in secrecy protection, China is poised to strengthen its national security framework. This development is of great importance not only for China but also for the international community, as it underscores the global trend towards enhanced information security and technological protection in national governance.


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