China Creates ‘Strong Nation’ App as Data Regime Tightens

Called “Strong Nation Transport,” the app will target government and state enterprise employees, several media outlets including the Beijing Daily reported.

China plans to launch a government-backed app to integrate a variety of services including ride-hailing, a sign of more state involvement in a sector wracked by controversy.

Called “Strong Nation Transport,” the app will target government and state enterprise employees, several media outlets including the Beijing Daily reported. 

It’s unclear whether the app’s availability will widen, or eventually include Didi Global Inc.’s Chuxing service, by far the country’s dominant ride-hailing platform. Beijing has been wary of the reams of data that mobile app operators like Didi are amassing, everything from online activity to the movements of individuals and government officials. That concern was a key factor behind the government’s decision to launch a probe into Didi in 2021, and establish an over-arching framework to control the flow of sensitive information nationwide.

Didi this week secured the green light to resume signing up new users, suggesting the worst is over for a ride-hailing giant that symbolized Beijing’s bruising campaign to rein in its powerful internet industry. But many of its apps — wiped from mobile stores at the start of the investigation — have yet to reappear.

The team behind the project has vowed “maximum protection of users’ data security and privacy,” the Beijing Daily reported, a line that made it into many Chinese media reports on the app. The aim is to help resolve issues of data security as well as “disorderly expansion” in the ride-hailing industry, a term Xi Jinping’s administration has often used to signal the need to rein in increasingly powerful internet giants.

But several prominent news outlets later cited the transport ministry as well as Xuexi Qiangguo — the team behind a separate propaganda app that reportedly worked on Strong Nation Transport — playing down its significance. The app was a collaboration with an affiliate of the ministry and was never intended to be a national-level mobility platform, Xuexi Qiangguo said in an online post.

The unexpected move could stoke more uncertainty around Beijing’s pledge to unfetter its internet sector after a sweeping crackdown launched in 2021 that effectively hobbled the main players in sectors from ride-hailing and e-commerce to social media and gaming. The government, keen to resuscitate an economy devastated by years of Covid controls, has granted more freedom to firms such as Tencent Holdings Ltd. in arenas like gaming.

But Beijing has also tightened regulations in other sectors and continued to take so-called “golden shares” in units of major internet giants including Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., giving the government a direct interest in key tech companies. That suggests it’s putting in place mechanisms to ensure longer-term oversight.

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