In many countries of the world, freedom of speech is a reality. Internet censorship in China remains one of the last large-scale online censorships in the world.
Highly monitored, businesses find themselves navigating a unique environment as they operate around several administrative regulations. But this “Great Firewall of China” does not have to limit the success of businesses trying to reach Chinese consumers.
With this article by Tenba Group, your trusted China online marketing company, business professionals gain a better understanding of the cyber policies for internet users in the Middle Kingdom. And find attainable business practices to fruitfully expand their operations into the Chinese market.
A Short History of Internet Censorship in China
In 1994, the internet was first introduced in China as a means of communication. In 1998, the “Great Firewall of China” started.
So, this project provides the Chinese government with access to the online record of its citizens and residents. Any harmful, inappropriate, illegal online content is deleted.
In fact, the “Great Firewall of China” is essentially a method to legally deal with the complex and ever-evolving online world. This made the challenges of cyber freedom of speech one of the most complex issues of the modern world. The “Great Firewall of China” is a sub-project of the “Golden Shield Project”, a Chinese nationwide network-security project by the e-government of China.
A Brief Look at the Rules Governing Internet Censorship in China
In June 2010, the Chinese government released a white paper covering internet censorship policy. In the paper, the government defended the need to regulate the activities of cyberspace. Excerpts from the white paper state that “within Chinese territory, the internet is under the jurisdiction of Chinese sovereignty. The internet sovereignty of China should be respected and protected.”
Businesses that want to tap into the Chinese market, for example with a WFOE, should know the basic internet regulations in the Middle Kingdom. These include:
1. Managing Online Information
This states that all internet service providers in the country must have a license and internet traffic must go through the appropriate networks.
2. Security of Computer Information Systems
This explains that internet security protection is the responsibility of the Ministry of Public Security.
3. Security Management Procedures in Internet Accessing
This checks for harmful activities on the internet, including
- Promoting resistance or obstructing the implementation of the constitution and administrative regulations or any activity that encourages such
- Inciting the division of the country or an overthrow of the government
- Inciting hatred, intolerance, or discrimination among ethnic groups
- Spreading rumors or fabricating stories that could affect national unification or destroy the order of society
- Promoting violence, terrorism, obscenity, pornography, or any form of criminal activity
- Defaming government agencies or exposing sensitive information of the state
This already sounds like a lot, right? And there is even more…
More Chinese Online Regulations
In addition, businesses should be aware that there are also regulations on internet service providers. For example, websites in China must get approval before they can include links from or to foreign websites. This can affect businesses opening up to Chinese consumers.
Also, to deliver news online, a publisher must be licensed and approved by the State Council Information Agency. And non-licensed publishers can only re-distribute content by a publisher with a license.
Moreover, internet service providers have the power to delete forbidden posts by internet users within the country. Internet providers also must report such posts to the relevant government agencies.
Internet users are also expected to submit their real names to their service providers and can only make posts with proof of identity. This is a result of the government banning anonymous postings online. Service providers who fail to comply with these regulations are either shut down or may lose their licenses. Citizens who also refuse to comply with these rules face fines or jail-time!
These regulations are constantly updated to adapt to the ever-evolving technological advances. Both foreigners and companies in China must follow these laws for using the internet.
China’s Internet Landscape Today
To date, China blocked more than 8,000 websites from being accessed. Businesses might find it challenging to craft an online presence when so many familiar websites and popular engagement apps are restricted.
Blocked websites include Google, Wikipedia, and The New York Times. And in the social media universe, you cannot access Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest in the Middle Kingdom. However, there are still many ways to successfully market your business online in China.
Instead, Chinese platforms have emerged, and have become powerful international players. Above all, WeChat – China’s super-app for literally everything. Sina Weibo and Douyin/TikTok are also mesmerizing audiences around the world. Click here for a detailed overview of the Chinese social media ecosystem.
And there are plenty of reasons why a business should take the time to work within Chinese internet regulations. With almost 2 trillion USD in sales, China has become the largest e commerce economy in the world.
The massive growth of the Chinese internet economy is largely due to the fact that it’s separate from foreign competition in European, American, and Japanese markets. With so many other businesses shying away from the challenge of navigating China’s cyber policies, the few businesses that choose to forge ahead are presented with the opportunity to engage with almost 1 billion internet users in China.
Business Opportunities in China
The introduction and tightening of international cyber policies will not slow down anytime soon. Businesses have been able to operate in a very open landscape for the past couple of years as the public usage of the internet took off. This is to say that businesses should not avoid operating and marketing in the Chinese market simply because of the effort it takes to navigate the policies.
How to Surpass the “Great Firewall of China”
As a foreign business, you first want to set up a Chinese website. This includes a .cn domain and hosting. For hosting, you can choose between
- hosting directly in mainland China with an ICP license
- hosting outside of China, but geographically close (e.g. Hong Kong, Singapore). Optionally with CDN, which has the advantage that you can reach a Chinese audience around the world.
For option 1 you must get an ICP (Internet Content Provider) license. And you also have to display the ICP registration in the footer of your website.
You can find more detailed information on how to best build a website for Chinese customers here. Keep in mind, that a simple translation from your English content to Mandarin is neither sufficient nor the right strategy.
So, are you curious to start?
To sum it up, internet censorship in China is just one hurdle businesses are facing when entering the Chinese market. Creating an online presence in line with the Chinese regulations is possible if you know how to.
Tenba Group is happy to help you surpass the “Great Firewall of China”. We build a Chinese website including cloud hosting for you. And we create a strong online presence on Chinese social media and e-commerce platforms including smart marketing strategies. Are you ready to conquer the Chinese market?