The director general of China’s regulator has stated that internet companies such as Facebook and Google would have to submit to the country’s notoriously stringent censorship laws if they wish to operate in the market.
Speaking at the Internet Governance Forum at the UN’s European headquarters, Qi Xiaoxia said that the Bureau of International Cooperation at the Cyberspace Administration of China is frequently asked: “Why Google, why Facebook are not yet working and operating in China?”
The regulator’s reply is: “if they want to come back, we welcome [them] - the condition is that they have to abide by Chinese law and regulations. That is the bottom line. We are of the idea that cyberspace is not a space that is ungoverned. We need to administer, or supervise, or manage, the internet according to law.”
Facebook has been blocked in China since 2009, while Google exited the market in 2010 as a result of the country’s censorship rules. A large number of mainstream western news sources are also blocked in China, along with Twitter and Instagram – the latter of which is owned by Facebook.
China obviously appeals to the large internet firms due to the massive amount of connected users, but concerns over censorship and privacy have effectively shut them out of the country, which has resulted in home-grown competitors such as Baidu and Tencent’s WeChat cornering the market.
In mid-October, as the country prepared for the Communist Party congress, the government began to crack down on several internet-based services. WhatsApp access was heavily restricted in September, while in November Microsoft’s Skype was taken down from the Apple App Store and the Google Play store within China.