Beijing, February 19

A new Chinese regulation announced this week will require foreign firms and foreign-Chinese joint ventures to acquire approval before publishing content online, in the government’s latest move to tighten control of the digital realm.

Under the new regulations going into effect March 10, firms with at least part-foreign ownership will be banned from publishing on the mainland text, pictures, maps, games, animation and sound ‘of informational or thoughtful nature’ without approval from State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television.

Chinese law has long required internet service providers to hold an operating licence that can only be obtained in partnership with a Chinese firm, and the new regulations do not represent a wholesale revision of existing rules or practices, experts say.

But the new policies underscore the increasingly restrictive political climate in China, where the leadership has sought to

rein in public speech and thought, with an emphatic focus on country’s fast-growing internet industry.

The explosive rise of new media, ranging from social media messaging services to streaming TV shows, for instance, has prompted Chinese censors to introduce a slate of new regulations so it could police digital and social media as closely as it did traditional publications. The country’s top internet regulator has repeatedly warned that an untamed cyberspace would pose a risk to domestic security and government should decide who to allow into ‘its house’.

As part of the new regulations, online publishers must store their content on servers in the mainland, a stipulation that gives the government expanded legal powers regarding data access and control. Beijing has made similar data storage requirements for technology firms as part of new cyber security and national security laws passed in the past year.