Censorship in China

China expected to bar all foreign media companies from publishing ‘creative works’ online

Foreign firms and their joint ventures likely won’t be allowed to post games, animation, comics, audio recordings and video after new regulation takes effect next month

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 February, 2016, 7:42pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 February, 2016, 3:39pm

China is embarking on an aggressive new campaign that would bar all foreign media companies and joint ventures in the country from directly publishing their content online.

The “Regulation for the Management of Online Publishing Services”, which was announced on February 13, is expected to put more stringent rules in force over the online publication of original or adapted “creative works”, such as images, games, animation, comics, audio recordings and video.

This new initiative to tighten the central government’s control over internet content is scheduled to take effect next month.

READ MORE: Not my cup of tea: Chinese internet users decry ‘sickening’ sculpture

These new rules will replace the “Temporary Regulation on the Management of Online Publishing”, which took effect in 2001 soon after China joined World Trade Organisation (WTO) that same year.

The current regulation allows licensed foreign joint ventures on the mainland to publish original and adapted creative works online.

“This is all part of China’s campaign to tighten control of the internet,” said Fu King-wa, an associate professor for journalism in the University of Hong Kong.

“I am not surprised about this new regulation at all.”

This is all part of China’s campaign to tighten control of the internet
Fu King-wa

Domestic content providers that plan to cooperate with foreign companies or their joint ventures, foreign individuals and other overseas-based organisations must seek approval from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television for any future collaboration.

In addition, the new regulation will task local governments to monitor domestic online publishers regularly and oversee their annual inspection.

“Monitoring the internet is now part of national security efforts,” Fu said.

“As such, maintaining control of what is published online has become a state policy.”

Licensed online content publishers in China are required to keep all the servers and storage systems used in their enterprise in the country.

The new regulation said these content providers must also practise self-censorship.

It marks the latest mainland initiative on controlling the internet after President Xi Jinping established in 2014 the Central Leading Group for Internet Security and Informatisation, a senior policy-formulating body under the Communist Party’s central committee.

READ MORE: Hong Kong’s political booksellers face ‘extermination’ threat as China’s Communist Party crackdown and online competition hit sales

“We should respect each country’s right to choose its own approach in internet governance,” Xi said during his keynote address at the state-backed World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, Jiangsu province, last year.

“Cyberspace is not a place beyond the rule of law.”

The latest regulation, however, could fuel more criticism towards China’s trade policies since it joined the WTO.

“Trade with China has been one step forward, and two steps back for 15 years,” wrote Stephen Ezell, the vice-president for global innovation policy at US think tank the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

He issued the comments in a report about such failed commitments by the world’s second-largest economy.

“Each time China claims to move toward opening trade, they turn around and introduce another new mercantilist barrier to counteract it.”