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Pity the poor punters who took a bath on the initial public offering of Didi Chuxing, the Chinese ride-hailing service, on the New York Stock Exchange. There is feverish speculation about why Chinese authorities acted as they did, but the most convincing explanation is that those investors were the proverbial chickens that had to be killed to scare some ambitious digital monkeys in China.

Beijing’s chief concern is data, and that Didi, with its 600 million customers, has a mouth-watering database. Didi hopes to mine that information for business payoffs; China fears that others could mine it for equally profitable, and damaging to national security, consequences.

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