The ruling Chinese Communist Party has announced new regulations that will ban foreign companies from publishing online media, games and other “creative” content within China’s borders from next month.
The “Regulations for the management of online publishing services” also ban foreign-invested joint ventures from engaging in online content provision, according to a copy of the rules posted on the official website of China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
And any Chinese companies wishing to produce online creative content, including audio, video, games and animations, must first seek official approval from the country’s media regulator.
Any organization in breach of the rules will be issued with a “warning letter,” as well as an order to remove the “illegal content,” according to Clause 51 of the regulations, which also require licensed online content providers to use service and storage facilities located in China.
While content producers will be tasked with self-censorship, local governments will also be required to monitor creative content providers in their region and oversee their annual inspection, the regulations say.
The move shows Beijing taking a much harder line towards foreign-produced online content than under previous rules, which allowed licensed foreign-invested joint ventures to publish original and adapted creative content online.
It comes as the administration of President Xi Jinping rolls out a raft of new legislation aimed at minimizing foreign influence in the country in the name of “national security,” analysts said.
“These regulations take national security as their starting point,” Hu Xingdou, professor of economics at the Beijing University of Science and Technology, told RFA.
“It means that they want to prevent ‘foreign forces’ from exerting any influence on China’s online content industry,” Hu said.
“Of course, this is going to affect foreign companies who have already invested in this industry in China,” he said.
According to a recent article in the National Law Review, Xi’s new emphasis on national security is “an integral part of … a growing assertiveness of the Chinese government in its dealings with foreign governments and businesses.”
“This focus on national security has important implications for companies and governments with current or potential interests in China,” the article said.
The new rules come after Xi told an Internet conference in Wuzhen, Jiangsu last year that each country should be able to control its own corner of cyberspace.
“We should respect each country’s right to choose its own approach in internet governance,” Xi told delegates. “Cyberspace is not a place beyond the rule of law.”
According to Sichuan-based rights activist Huang Qi, who founded the Tianwang rights website, said his site would carry on as normal for the time being, but that the new rules could make that harder in future.
“Of course, these new rules mean that I am operating in a more hostile environment than before,” Huang said. “They will … increase the level of fear and anxiety in our work.”
He said Beijing is extremely concerned about the impact of the Internet on public opinion in China.
“China’s leadership at the highest level is very worried about online content,” Huang said.
“As more and more information becomes available online, in particular as more and more foreign content flows into mainland China, they will step up controls again and again, so as to maintain control over the Internet,” he said.
Reported by Wong Lok-to for RFA’s Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie. 17-02-2016