April 7, 2006

China curbs on foreign magazines take quiet effect

By Chris Buckley

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's publishing authority has
quietly introduced new restrictions on foreign magazines
issuing Chinese versions, but officials on Friday denied the
rules had led to the closure of Rolling Stone magazine's
Chinese edition.

A General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP)
official said the group created an "internal rule" last year
that allows only foreign science and technology magazines to
develop Chinese versions through tie-ups with approved local

China's Communist Party rulers have cracked down on
increasingly bold reporting by local newspapers and magazines.
In August, the government issued a freeze on foreign investment
in satellite television and other media ventures.

The GAPP official, who spoke on condition of anonymity,
said the rule would mean sports, entertainment and fashion
magazines could not expect approval to enter China's expanding

"China never promised to let foreign companies distribute
Chinese versions here; they've always had to have a Chinese
partner that selects content based on our requirements," he

"Now approvals will be limited to science and technology

He said the rule was introduced last year, but could not
give a specific date.

This latest development in media controls was first
reported by the Wall Street Journal on Friday. It may throw
into uncertainty many international media corporations' plans
to expand in China, said David Wolf, president of Wolf Group
Asia, which advises investors on China's media.

But Wolf said it was far from clear that GAPP spoke for the
whole government and its ultimate effect was unclear. "In
China, there's a big difference between passing a regulation
and actually enforcing it, and this regulation is no

Victor Visot, a Hong Kong-based executive for Hachette
Filipacchi Medias, the world's largest consumer magazine
publisher, said he had not heard of the new rule but did not
expect it would derail the group's goals in China.

His group helps issue several Chinese-language versions of
its titles, including Elle magazine, through local partners.

"I don't expect our plans for growth in the mainland to be
affected," he told Reuters.

The Chinese official denied the rule directly killed off
Rolling Stone's local edition, but he offered little hope for
the Chinese publishers of the U.S.-based rock magazine shut
down last month after one issue.

"Rolling Stone should have reported and sought approval
from the relevant state authority -- which is us, GAPP -- but
they never did even that," he said.

"It wasn't a question of their content. It's just like they
were driving a car without a license."

Rolling Stone's first Chinese edition included a cover of
rock pioneer Cui Jian and Mu Zimei, a controversial blogger
whose candid accounts of sexual adventures led to her site
being closed down. The magazine's Chinese editor could not be
contacted for comment.