Beijing restricts kids to three hours of gaming per week

Business & Technology

Another day, yet another set of rules to govern China’s internet companies. Today it’s gaming in the regulators’ crosshairs, and the rules will be tough on China’s teenagers.

Illustration by Derek Zheng

In a move that will be popular amongst Chinese parents and deeply resented by the country’s teens, Beijing has barred minors from playing computer games except for one hour per day on weekends and holidays.

Players under 18 are banned from electronic games except during 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, under new rules (in Chinese) issued by the National Press and Publication Administration

  • Rules enacted in 2019 limited players under 18 to a maximum of 90 minutes of gaming on weekdays and three hours a day on weekend days.
  • The new rules are backed with a renewed call to internet companies to ensure real-name registration and logins for users, which enables companies, and the government, to track them and limit their time spent gaming.
  • The onus is on the online game companies to enforce the new rules.

Share prices of companies with significant gaming businesses like Tencent, NetEase, and Bilibili plunged.

  • The news should not have been a surprise to investors: It comes after a state media article described video games as “spiritual opium” earlier in August, and is part of a wider purge of China’s tech sector.
  • For more on the gaming rules see articles from CNBC, Reuters, or the New York Times.

Other tech crackdowns in progress in China

Chinese regulators have unleashed all their fire power on the internet industry in recent months, and the pace is not slowing down. Since we published our guide to the crackdowns on China’s tech sector less than a month ago, these are some of the new government initiatives:

Unprecedented draft regulations on algorithms

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), which has become the most powerful internet regulator in Xi Jinping’s China, issued sweeping guidelines (in Chinese, or see Reuters report) on algorithmic recommendations last week.

  • Some of the rules say that algorithms must be more transparents and cannot push harmful information to minors.

Got data? No Wall Street IPO.

“​​China plans to propose new rules that would ban companies with large amounts of sensitive consumer data from going public in the U.S.,” reported the Wall Street Journal last Friday, based on insider sources.

Financial bloggers beware

“Major Chinese social media platforms, including WeChat, Weibo, Douyin, and Kuaishou, said they would rectify ’self-media’ accounts that have violated rules when publishing financial information,” reports Tech Node. The moves came after warnings from CAC.

Sharing economy under spotlight

The State Administration of Market Regulation (SAMR) “said its stricter oversight would include regulating powerbank sharing platforms and making their pricing systems transparent,” reports Reuters. “The regulator also said it was investigating food delivery giant Meituan for not reporting its acquisition of bike-sharing startup Mobike in 2018 for antitrust review.”

Cracking celebrity heads and breaking up fan networks

A campaign that may have been sparked or accelerated by the rape charges against pop star Kris Wu (Wú Yìfán 吴亦凡) has widened to target all kinds of celebrity misbehavior and the business models of fan networks. The latest reports:

Weaning the government off private sector cloud computing

“The northern Chinese city of Tianjin has asked state-backed companies to migrate their data from private cloud operators like Huawei, Alibaba, and Tencent to a state-backed cloud system by September, 2022,” reports Tech Node.

Local implementation of national crackdown

“Eastern China’s Zhejiang province, where ecommerce giant Alibaba Group Holding is based, has issued the country’s first provincial competition compliance guidelines for online platform operators amid Beijing’s increased scrutiny of Big Tech companies,” reports the South China Morning Post.