Living in Shanghai sometimes gives me a warped perspective about life in mainland China as a whole. Reminders of western life, the United States and capitalism are everywhere. It’s an ambitious city; people flock to Shanghai with hopes of making their fortune. “Money” is the word of the city.The English language, while not universally spoken, is still ubiquitous.
I forget about the fact that while foreign influences can been seen, felt and even celebrated across Shanghai, that’s not the case in most of the country. I was reminded of that today when I learned that, next month, foreign media companies will be banned from publishing online content in China. Foreign correspondents can still enter the country and file reports (with strict restrictions) for their respective news organizations. But foreign companies will not be allowed to publish any content for a Chinese audience unless they first partner with a Chinese company and receive government approval.
As Quartz, which published the story on Feb. 18, reported, this is bad news for media organizations who have been hoping to branch out to China’s huge consumer market. Some foreign companies have reportedly invested millions into their China operations – including big names like The New York Times, which can’t even be accessed without a VPN.
And of course, it’s bad news for the people living in China, who are being subjected to yet another layer of censorship.
“The new rules would allow only 100% Chinese companies to produce any content that goes online, and then only after approval from Chinese authorities and the acquisition of an online publishing license. Companies will then be expected to self-censor, and not publish any information at all that falls into several broad categories, including:
- harming national unity, sovereignty, and territorial integrity
- disclosing state secrets, endangering national security, or harming national honor and interests
- inciting ethnic hatred or ethnic discrimination, undermining national unity, or going against ethnic customs and habits
- spreading rumors, disturbing social order, or undermining social stability
- insulting or slandering others, infringing upon the legitimate rights of others
- endangering social morality or national cultural tradition”