App clampdown in China could threaten small US developers


Yet another app clampdown in China looks set to cause problems for developers both inside and outside the country, but with small developers from the US and other foreign countries hit hardest.

A new law will require all developers to “file business details” with the Chinese government, in what some are saying amounts to requesting permission to make an app available through the App Store

Previous app clampdowns in China

The Chinese government has long exerted a tight hold over what apps can be made available in China, with major apps like X, Facebook, and Instagram all banned in the country. Citizens who find ways around these bans have faced truly chilling threats for continuing to use them.

“Delete all your tweets, and shut down your account,” the police officer said. “This is truly wholehearted advice for you,” the officer added. “If this happens a second time, it will be handled differently. It will affect your parents. You are still so young. If you get married and have kids, it will affect them.”

The government has also banned entire categories of apps, like VPNs, and most recently generative AI apps.

Additionally, mobile game apps require individual licenses in a move intended to crack down on gambling.

Next, developers must have a company in China

Reuters reports that a new clampdown is now being introduced, in which all app developers must file details of their business with the government, and that this will require them to have a company or publisher in China.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) said late on Tuesday that apps without proper filings will be punished after the grace period that will end in March next year, a move that experts say would potentially restrict the number of apps and hit small developers hard […]

Rich Bishop, co-founder of app publishing firm AppInChina, said the new rule is also likely to affect foreign-based developers which have been able to publish their apps easily through Apple’s App Store without showing any documentation to the Chinese government.

Bishop said that in order to comply with the new rules, app developers now must either have a company in China or work with a local publisher.

This requirement is similar to that previously imposed on games apps, which resulted in tens of thousands of apps being removed from the App Store and other platforms.

Apple had not commented at the time of writing.

Photo: Sigmund/Unsplash

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