Internet news in censors’ crosshairs, again

Business & Technology

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Gags on internet news tighten

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), a government body responsible for all aspects of internet regulation, has released a new set of rules titled “regulations for the management of internet news services” (in Chinese), which come into effect June 1. They apply to any posting of political, military, diplomatic, or economic news on any digital platform, including social media. Reuters notes that the rules stipulate that “all such platforms must have editorial staff who are approved by the national or local government internet and information offices, while their workers must get training and reporting credentials from the central government.”

Why these new rules for an already highly-censored internet? Caixin quotes Qiao Mu 乔木, media critic and a former professor at the Beijing Foreign Studies University: “This is a step to replicate the management imposed on traditional news organizations such as newspapers.” The rules are in some ways nothing new, and merely give the authorities another tool to add to those they’ve been using for years (PDF).

In addition to the new rules, CAC published a document titled “procedures for enforcing administrative laws on content management” (in Chinese), which details how content management violations should be investigated and handled.

How to be a journalist in China

Former Phoenix TV news editor, war correspondent, and presidential interviewer Rose Lüqiu Luwei 闾丘露薇 has written a “personal reflection” on “how to be a journalist in China.” She describes the frustrations and obstacles that Chinese journalists face, and how they can sometimes “manage to affect policy makers’ decision-making” despite an environment that is hostile to news media.

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor in Chief

This issue of the SupChina newsletter was produced by Sky Canaves, Lucas Niewenhuis, Jia Guo, and Jiayun Feng. More China stories worth your time are curated below, with the most important ones at the top of each section.



Silicon Valley vs. China: Arms race for AI talent

The Financial Times reports (paywall) that Tencent, the company behind the WeChat app, will open a lab in Seattle to develop artificial intelligence (AI) technology, led by Dong Yu (俞栋), who previously worked at Microsoft China as principal researcher. Tencent’s new American lab will focus on speech recognition. Last April, Tencent established an AI lab in Shenzhen, employing “50 computer scientists and 200 engineers.” The company plans to apply its AI technology to social media, online games, and cloud services as well as to content such as online news platforms.

Search giant Baidu, which in 2014 was the first Chinese tech firm to open a U.S.-based AI lab, last week announced plans to open a second one, according to Caixin. Both labs are located in Silicon Valley. In late March, the company lost the head of its data and artificial intelligence research division, Andrew Ng, who helped start Google’s deep learning initiative. But Baidu’s founding CEO Robin Li 李彦宏 has been stepping up efforts to woo foreign talent. In March, he urged official delegates at the Two Sessions to make China more welcoming to international staff, and said that Trump’s restrictive immigration policies offered “a great opportunity” for China to attract talent from Silicon Valley. Last week, he told CNN that “this is a good time for China to stand up and say, ‘Hey, come to us. We like you. We welcome immigrants.’”

In March this year, Didi Chuxing, the rideshare behemoth that ate Uber alive in China, announced the opening of its AI lab in Silicon Valley. TechCrunch reported that “the new center is part of a move to suck up talent beyond Didi’s current catchment pool in China, particularly in the areas of AI and self-driving vehicles, but it doesn’t signal an expansion of its service into North America.”



Former Shanghai mayor to advise on Xiongan New Area

The South China Morning Post reports that Xu Kuangdi 徐匡迪, the “septuagenarian former Shanghai mayor…who played a key role in transforming that city’s riverside Pudong backwater into China’s financial hub,” has become Xi Jinping’s “key advisor” on the Xiongan New Area project. Xiongan is a brand new city planned for an area in Hebei Province about 100 km (62 miles) southwest of Beijing. Xu spent much of his life researching, teaching, and working in steel production.



Street photo scam in Sanlitun

Scammers in Sanlitun, a popular shopping and nightlife area in Beijing, are posing as talent scouts, targeting young women who dream of becoming models, the Beijing News reports (in Chinese). The con artists usually begin by complimenting girls on their looks or style, and ask to take street snaps of them. After getting their phone numbers, the fake talent agencies then constantly call the girls, persuading them to pay for photo shoots, cosmetics, and magazine exposure, with the promise of part-time modeling jobs.

The journalists who wrote the exposé infiltrated one of the fake talent agencies and asked how they select their targets. One staff member answered, “Good-looking and rich girls. You just observe if they are carrying luxury bags or wearing branded clothes.” Another staff member added, “It doesn’t matter if the girl looks pretty or not, as long as she looks rich.”

More than 16 people have reported similar cases to the Beijing police, who have started investigating the scam.