With the number of Internet users in China approaching 500
million, the Chinese Government announced on 4 May 2011 that it has
set up the State Internet Information Office which will serve as
the new central agency for online communications in China.
What prompted the setting up of the SIIO?
Prior to the announcement, it was the collective responsibility
of China's State Council Information Office and a disparate
group of at least 14 government ministries and offices that
exercise regulatory control over China's Internet industry.
This setup was beset by poor coordination and conflict. The
creation of the centralised State Internet Information Office
("SIIO") has been lauded by the Chinese
government as a key mechanism to streamline the administration of
the Internet in China and to simplify the regulatory environment by
bringing the Internet under one unifying regulatory body.
Another reason offered by the Chinese government for the
establishment of the SIIO is to promote the 'healthy
development' of the Internet by imposing improved regulation
measures to deal with problems such as online gambling, fraud,
online pornography, vulgar content and illegal online marketing
What does the SIIO do?
The SIIO is intended to hold the following broad
implementing policies of Internet communications and promoting
the establishment of a legal system in this field
directing, coordinating and supervising online content
handling administrative approval of businesses related to
online news reporting, development of online gaming, video, audio
businesses and publication industries
coordinating the relevant government ministries and offices in
planning the development of Internet culture
promoting the development of major news websites
managing government publicity
investigating and punishing websites that violate laws and
directing the relevant government ministries and offices in
their management of telecom service providers, Internet access
providers and domain name and IP address registration work,
guiding the work of Internet information offices at the local
Who are behind the SIIO?
The State Council has not set up a new team for the purposes of
operating the SIIO but will instead utilise existing officials
already involved in Internet regulation from the State Council
The State Council Information Office's current director and
vice director will take the same positions at the new office, while
the vice ministers of the Ministry of Industry and Information
Technology ("MIIT") and Ministry of
Public Security ("MPS") will join as
How will the SIIO interact with the existing government
ministries and offices?
Whilst the announcement indicates that the SIIO will 'work
to strengthen coordination' amongst the existing government
ministries and offices which already claim regulatory control over
various parts of the Internet such as the MIIT, the MPS and the
General Administration of Press and Publication, it is not yet
clear if going forward the SIIO will really be the only regulatory
body that will oversee the Internet in China or whether
notwithstanding the creation of such new entity, the sector will
continue to be regulated by the existing incumbent regulators.
Whatever the outcome, the creation of the SIIO appears to allow
policy makers to coordinate and oversee the various government
ministries and offices which regulate the Internet more
How will the Chinese Internet environment be affected?
Chinese Internet activities are likely to be subject to tighter
control and regulation though the extent to which they will be
affected is unclear at this stage.
There has been speculation that the creation of the SIIO may
threaten the use of innovative corporate structure that many
Chinese and foreign Internet companies have adopted to overcome
China's stringent regulatory restrictions on foreign investment
in this lucrative sector in China.
But perhaps the key concern over the creation of the SIIO is its
impact on censorship over China and offshore-based online services.
As mentioned above, the SIIO is set up with the intention of,
amongst other things, preventing abuse of the use of the Internet
through fraud, online pornography, vulgar content and illegal
online marketing tricks, which seems to be fairly prevalent in the
China Internet sector. Whether this means increasing censorship and
blocking measures, for this and other reasons, remains
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guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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