China re­quires ap­proval for for­eign firms to pub­lish on­line

The Pak Banker - - COMPANIES/BOSS -

A new Chi­nese regulation an­nounced this week will re­quire for­eign com­pa­nies and for­eign-Chi­nese joint ven­tures to ac­quire ap­proval be­fore pub­lish­ing con­tent on­line, in the govern­ment's lat­est move to tighten con­trol of the dig­i­tal realm.

In an ap­par­ent coun­ter­vail­ing trend born of the need to shore up slow­ing growth and flag­ging for­eign in­vest­ment, the govern­ment on Fri­day also an­nounced plans to make it eas­ier for for­eign­ers to live and work in the coun­try un­der new rules for ob­tain­ing per­ma­nent res­i­dency.

Un­der the new reg­u­la­tions go­ing into ef­fect March 10, firms with at least part-for­eign own­er­ship will be banned from pub­lish­ing on the main­land text, pic­tures, maps, games, an­i­ma­tion and sound "of in­for­ma­tional or thought­ful na­ture" with­out ap­proval from the State Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Press, Pub­li­ca­tion, Ra­dio, Film and Tele­vi­sion.

Chi­nese law has long re­quired In­ter­net ser­vice providers to hold an op­er­at­ing li­cense that can only be ob­tained in part­ner­ship with a Chi­nese firm, and the new reg­u­la­tions do not rep­re­sent a whole­sale re­vi­sion of ex­ist­ing rules or prac­tices, ex­perts say.

But the new poli­cies un­der­score the in­creas­ingly re­stric­tive political cli­mate in China, where the lead­er­ship has sought to rein in pub­lic speech and thought, with an em­phatic fo­cus on the coun­try's fast-grow­ing In­ter­net in­dus­try.

The ex­plo­sive rise of new me­dia, rang­ing from so­cial me­dia mes­sag­ing ser­vices to stream­ing TV shows, for in­stance, has prompted Chi­nese cen­sors to in­tro­duce a slate of new reg­u­la­tions so it could po­lice dig­i­tal and so­cial me­dia as closely as it did tra­di­tional pub­li­ca­tions. The coun­try's top In­ter­net reg­u­la­tor has re­peat­edly warned that an un­tamed cy­berspace would pose a risk to do­mes­tic se­cu­rity and the govern­ment should de­cide who to al­low into "its house."

"China is still fo­cused more on main­tain­ing the so­cial sta­bil­ity and na­tional se­cu­rity in­ter­ests when it comes to mak­ing poli­cies on the In­ter­net in­dus­try, while car­ing less about the com­mer­cial and in­di­vid­ual in­ter­ests," said Zhang Zhian, the di­rec­tor of the school of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and de­sign at Sun Yat-sen Univer­sity.

As part of the new reg­u­la­tions, on­line pub­lish­ers must store their con­tent on servers in the main­land, a stip­u­la­tion that gives the govern­ment ex­panded le­gal pow­ers re­gard­ing data ac­cess and con­trol. Bei­jing has made sim­i­lar data stor­age re­quire­ments for tech­nol­ogy firms as part of new cy­ber­se­cu­rity and na­tional se­cu­rity laws passed in the past year.

Paul Gil­lis, a vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor at Pek­ing Univer­sity's Guanghua School of Man­age­ment who stud­ies Chi­ne­se­for­eign joint ven­tures, said China has in­tro­duced reg­u­la­tions in re­cent months that ex­plic­itly give au­thor­i­ties cen­sor­ship pow­ers un­der the law that they have long had in prac­tice.

"From a prac­ti­cal stand­point it's not much dif­fer­ent," he said. "There was tough regulation of any­thing on­line be­fore and they shut down any- thing they thought dis­rupts so­cial or­der. But a lot of what might have been com­mon prac­tices be­fore are be­ing put into leg­is­la­tion so China can ar­gue it's op­er­at­ing un­der the rule of law."

Mean­while, the new guide­lines is­sued by China's Cab­i­net aim to ex­pand the cat­e­gories of for­eign­ers in China el­i­gi­ble to ob­tain the Chi­nese equiv­a­lent of a U.S. green card. Pro­ce­dures will be sim­pli­fied and re­stric­tions re­laxed on for­eign stu­dents seek­ing jobs in the coun­try.

China's econ­omy posted its slow­est growth in a quar­ter cen­tury last year, ex­pand­ing 6.9 per­cent. Of­fi­cials ex­pect growth this year of be­tween 6.5 and 7 per­cent, while once-ro­bust in­ter­est among for­eign in­vestors is fall­ing amid com­plaints over ex­ces­sive govern­ment in­ter­fer­ence.

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