China Allows Tesla, Others to Transfer Data Overseas Without Security Checks

Shanghai has compiled a list of data that can be transferred overseas without security assessments, according to a government document seen by Reuters. This move aims to attract foreign investment to boost China’s sluggish economy.

Foreign firms, including financial companies and automakers such as Tesla, have lobbied Chinese authorities to permit cross-border data sharing after Beijing tightened control over domestically generated data in a national security drive. The 2022 rules require all “important” offshore data transfers to clear security reviews by the Cyberspace Administration of China, causing delays and concerns among foreign firms.

Shanghai, China’s market and business capital, has created an initial list of “ordinary data” in three sectors: intelligent and connected vehicles, mutual funds, and biomedicine. These sectors require the least regulation for data transfers, according to the government document.

Under a one-year pilot project, companies registered in the city’s free-trade Lingang Area, where Tesla’s Shanghai factory is located, can transfer data on the list overseas without needing further security assessments. The document, shared with companies at an event announcing the whitelist in Shanghai, outlines plans for Lingang to become a hub for cross-border data and specifies scenarios for each of the three sectors classified as “ordinary data.”

Details reported by Reuters based on the document were later confirmed by Lingang authorities, which announced the scheme on its website late Friday afternoon. The newly announced data transfer rules take effect immediately.

For the auto sector, the data includes manufacturing information such as procurement and stockpile, research and development, after-sales services, and used car sales. The Shanghai government’s event on Friday included Tesla, Ford, and BMW, said a person with direct knowledge of the matter. The city government and the three companies did not immediately reply to Reuters’ requests for comments.

Shanghai’s pilot project follows company demands for more clarity around cross-border data transfers. Data transfer permission was a topic when Musk met last month with top Chinese government officials. Tesla has focused on efforts to secure Chinese regulatory approval to transfer data generated by its electric vehicles out of China for its “Full Self Driving” system. Reuters reported on Friday that Tesla is pushing ahead with plans to power the global development of the self-driving system with data from China that could be processed within the country.

Volkswagen’s China chief told Premier Li Qiang last year that more clarity on cross-border data transfers was needed, stating the transformation of the auto sector depends on the international exchange of data, personnel, and knowledge. The Shanghai government’s list of “ordinary data” will be expanded over time, according to the document.

Tesla plans to unveil its Robotaxi on August 8 and many suspect the date of 8/8 (8 is lucky in China), which CEO Elon Musk was picked on purpose as it’s also the birthday of his triplet sons, mean the Robotaxi could include plans for China.