Beijing intends to prohibit private capital from entering the news services industry

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Beijing intends to prohibit private capital from entering the news services industry
A newspaper vendor peers from her stall in Beijing, China, on Dec. 10, 2004. (Guang Niu/Getty Images)

China is considering limiting non-public capital’s access to the news media sector.

According to a China expert, this move would devastate private news organizations and individual journalists.

On October 8, China’s National Development and Reform Commission issued a list of “negative aspects” of market access for 2021 (pdf) in order to solicit public feedback. The 78-page document includes a section that prohibits “non-public capital” from engaging in news gathering, editing, and broadcasting, as well as participating in the establishment and operation of news organizations.

Regulators are proposing a ban on private capital in a wide range of daily business activities of news organizations. According to state media China News Service, private capital could not be used to run news agencies’ pages, radio frequencies, channels, programs, official accounts on social media, republish news by foreign entities, or hold industry forums, summits, and awards events.

Private capital would also be barred from covering major events relating to “political views, public opinions, or values” in the fields of politics, economy, military, diplomacy, health, sports, technology, and education.

The proposed bans would apply to news services, journals, broadcasters, and providers of internet news services.

On January 1, 2010, China’s top press and publication authority “encouraged non-public capital” to enter the media sector in a planned manner, as well as partner with state-owned publishing firms and expand their business in the foreign market.

On Oct. 11, Toronto-based China commentator Wen Zhao described the proposed list as a death sentence for China’s private news agencies and independent media workers on his YouTube channel.

“It’s a sign of a larger silencing operation for Chinese authorities in preparation for upcoming greater’storms,'” Wen said, referring to potential future economic and social insecurity.

He specifically mentioned two powerful private news organizations, Caixin Media and Guancha, that he claimed were under attack.

According to the expert, the new restrictions would be a significant blow to the multimedia Caixin, which was founded in December 2009. It achieved unrivaled fame for its exclusive, ground-breaking anti-graft investigations while working with Wang Qishan, the then-head of China’s top watchdog and Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s closest ally during Xi’s first tenure.

However, as Xi gradually estranged Wang in the political arena, the outlet began to face difficulties, according to Wen.

“If Caixin is to survive, it must abandon its principle of independent news gathering and editing,” said the expert.

Guancha, in contrast to Caixin, is a leftist, pro-Beijing website that promotes nationalism among domestic Chinese readers. According to the analyst, it would be at risk due to its non-public nature.

The Chinese regime imposed a wave of restrictions on individual journalists in the latter part of August. According to state media reports, regulators closed 2,929 accounts and labeled those who released negative economic news as “bad-mouthing those in the financial market.”

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