July 11, 2017 By FTI Consulting
In the lead up to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China later this year in autumn, attempts to uphold China’s cyber sovereignty and reinforce the ruling party’s Core Socialist Values look to be ramping up. In this special edition of FTI Consulting’s Asia Digital Download, we look back at the recent key events imposed by China’s regulatory authorities to tighten controls over media and online content.
With a government seemingly worried about losing its grip on the general beliefs of Chinese society, a number of recent initiatives show a concerted attempt to regain control. This includes the establishment of high-level working groups headed by Xi Jinping to tighten online media regulation, passing of the National Security Law and the Cybersecurity Law, a crackdown on unauthorised VPN services, and an internal CCP audit on ideology in May this year.
Last month saw a number of strict, yet ambiguous, developments targeted at constricting ‘unsavoury’ content and foreign involvement in an increasingly digital news cycle. These controls include the closure of a number of social media accounts including celebrity gossip outlets with millions of followers, non-China based internet news outlets and non-Chinese news editors being prohibited, as well as the prohibition of foreign direct investment in online news publications in China.
The Chinese government has grown increasingly wary of the encroachment of western values in public opinion in recent years. In response, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) introduced a requirement that any platform that collects, edits and releases news online including social media accounts need to hold or apply for a specific license. Further, it is only possible for internet news providers with a server based in China and a legal person that holds a Chinese Residence ID to apply for the new license.
For foreign entities looking to establish a Chinese social media presence, they also face roadblocks in setting up official WeChat accounts in China as the registering party needs to be a legal Chinese citizen and the company to be registered in China. Although it is still unclear if businesses will need to apply for the new license mentioned earlier if they share news on social media, it is likely the verification process for these accounts will be drawn out due to the tightened rules.