The mainland has more than 15,000 Web sites but has not issued a single Internet content provider (ICP) licence. Wang Qingcun, director of Internet news management in the State Council's Information Department, said that, as of the end of last year, the mainland had 15,153 Web sites and 48,695 registered Web names, including 700 with news. His department has taken control of ICPs, while Internet service providers (ISPs) are the responsibility of the Ministry of Information Industry (MII) which was in charge of both until the end of last year. 'China is in the initial stage of drawing up laws and regulations to govern news on the Internet,' the Beijing Youth Daily yesterday quoted Mr Wang as saying. 'We are soliciting opinions from the relevant departments and should publish the regulations in the first half of 2000. 'As far as Web-based media is concerned, we stress using accurate opinion to guide people. Web sites run by the official media are good, with reliability and proper channels of news,' he said. Private media was a useful supplement to the main news provided by official sites, he said. But some have failings, including serious infringements of copyright, reproducing inaccurate news that has a bad impact on society and having no ICP licence, when theirs is an ISP licence. The MII has not issued an ICP licence. This regulatory uncertainty is making foreign investors wary of putting money into them. Chauncey Shey, managing director of Softbank China Venture Capital, said it had invested in 20 mainland Internet start-ups and had US$500 million ready for investment this year. These start-ups include Alibaba, Goodbaby, Chinaquest, Precom and China Guardian.com. 'On ICPs, we will be careful and will follow government rules and regulations,' Mr Shey said. 'We will invest more in technology companies, in firms that deliver Internet services. We have a large degree of autonomy in deciding what to invest in.' Globally, Softbank is the largest investor in the Internet, with US$4 billion invested, half in the United States and most of the remainder in Asia, a holding now worth about US$40 billion, said Gary Rieschel, executive management director of Softbank Venture Capital. During the next five years, Softbank plans to invest US$3 billion annually in US Internet firms and US$2 billion in such firms outside the US.