China orders app publishers to share business details

Beijing tightens its control on app developers, particularly targeting foreigners.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) in Beijing has announced new rules for mobile app publishers operating on the Chinese market, demanding that they shared business details with the government. 

The MIIT warned that the publishers failing to have proper filings with the provincial telecommunication authorities at the place of registration by the end of March 2024 would suffer severe punishments.

The official release does not specify the nature of punishment, which can involve fines, blocking apps, or slapping developers with prison terms.

Experts speaking to Reuters said the new rules are likely to affect foreign-based developers which have been able to publish their apps easily without showing any documentation to the Chinese government. In order to comply with the new rules, app developers now must either have a company in China or work with a local publisher. 

The move, which is designed to combat online fraud, could potentially restrict the number of apps and hit small developers hard.

Entities "engaged in internet information services through apps in such fields as news, publishing, education, film and television and religion should also submit relevant documents," the notice reads.

China earlier banned a number of social media apps such as Facebook, Instagram and X/Twitter, and introduced licenses for mobile game publishers.

AppStore and GooglePlay, the two largest app hosting platforms, have not commented yet on the MIIT’s decision.