A year-old government rule is the reason why online publications with foreign investment will have to seek permission from Chinese authorities before publishing content on the internet from Thursday.
State media quoted a newspaper affiliated to China’s top media watchdog as saying that a government “catalogue” had banned foreign investment in online publications.
An anonymous official from China’s media regulator, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT), told the newspaper affiliated to it that the watchdog was following rules laid down in the Catalogue for the Guidance of Industries for Foreign Investment, which “specifically puts foreign investment in online publishing on the blacklist”.
To publish, online content providers will have to knock on the doors of SAPPRFT first from now on. Industries on the list include books, newspapers and magazines, digital publications and audiovisual products, the official said.
“Joint ventures between Chinese and foreign firms should first seek the approval of the SAPPRFT before publishing content online, including text, photos, games and animation,” state-run Global Times newspaper reported about the rule that came into effect on Thursday.
The catalogue was jointly released by the National Development and Reform Commission and the commerce ministry in 2015 but the rules were notified on February 4.
“The clarification comes after China released a new regulation on February 4 that prohibits foreign businesses from publishing online content,” the newspaper said.
“Moreover, the official from the SAPPRFT stressed that online publishing service providers within the People’s Republic of China must have their servers and storage equipment located in the Chinese mainland,” the article said.
Local experts said the rule is being implemented to protect and preserve Chinese culture and ideology.
But it is also seen as the latest effort by the government to restrict and control information circulated on the internet in China.
The regulations, according to the newspaper, added that “online content publishers should ‘promote core socialist values’ and spread morals that improve the quality of the nation and promote economic development”.
Even online game service providers who allow people to download or play games online are required to get SAPPRFT’s approval, the newspaper said.
“There was tough regulation of anything online before and they shut down anything 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,” Paul Gillis, visiting professor at Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management, told The Independent newspaper last month when news of the new regulation emerged.