Officials in Beijing have upped the pressure on Western media companies lately, barring them from distributing content behind the Great Firewall. The WSJ:
Rules barring foreign media companies from licenses to operate video-streaming services in China, and from showing content online or via cable as stand-alone brands, have been in place for several years. Recently they have been more strictly enforced.
China’s regulators in April unplugged two recent entrants, in moves that showed no company is immune: Apple Inc.’s online book and movie services and a smart-TV streaming service under the Walt Disney Co. brand.
Disney started the Disney Life streaming service in partnership with China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. People familiar with the matter said it was taken down in China primarily due to the ban on online or cable content under foreign brands. Disney, which opens its own branded resort in Shanghai this month, and Alibaba both declined to comment.
These tough content regulations are the latest in a series of regulations and policies which have strangled foreign companies and individuals in China. American businesses say operating in China is more challenging today than it has been in decades. Foreign NGOs are under intense government pressure. Xi has been cracking down on domestic media outlets, economic analysts, and journalists. All of this adds up to portray an increasingly closed-off and hostile China—and that’s before considering rising tensions in the South and East China Seas.
As we’ve said for months, a more belligerent, nationalist, and restrictive Beijing likely signals that China’s leadership is scared of what’s ahead, and is looking to consolidate power amidst slowing economic growth. With everyone trying to figure out how bad China’s economic situation really is, it’s advantageous to watch the behavior of senior Chinese policymakers. They look worried, and that means the rest of us should be too.