China’s government has just launched the latest salvo against its own technology industry:
China on Monday issued strict new measures aimed at curbing what authorities describe as youth videogame addiction, which they blame for a host of societal ills, including distracting young people from school and family responsibilities.
The new regulation, unveiled by the National Press and Publication Administration, will ban minors, defined as those under 18 years of age, from playing online videogames entirely between Monday and Thursday. On the other three days of the week, and on public holidays, they will be only permitted to play between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.
This is likely to have a substantial effect on major Chinese tech companies like Tencent and NetEase, leaders in videogames. The new regulation is the latest development in a crackdown on companies in ride sharing, food delivery, educational tech, and more.
I see two major issues with this crackdown:
If you can have your business regulated out of existence at any time, you might not start one. And if you do, it will be a lot harder to attract investors.
Tech companies rely on venture capital to grow. That funding is already beginning to dry up. No wonder the number of Chinese companies reaching $1 billion valuation (“unicorns”) is falling off a cliff:
I invest in American startups regularly. There is zero possibility I’d invest in a Chinese one. The odds of the government one day deciding your industry is bad for “social stability” are just too high.
Without capital, Chinese tech companies will wither.
Imagine the U.S. government telling you, “Sorry Timmy, you can only play video games from 8 to 9pm on weekends. Oh, 7 is better for you? Well too bad.”
In the context of a free society, this is unthinkable. In China, the government is taking on the role of a parent. It’s another step to totalitarianism, where the government controls all aspects of life.
And China’s crackdown goes way beyond tech:
Zhao Wei, one of China’s most prominent actresses, saw her presence mostly scrubbed from the country’s internet overnight. Her fan page on Weibo, China’s heavily censored version of Twitter, was shut down. Movies and television shows she starred in — some going as far back as two decades ago — were taken off streaming platforms, with her name also removed from the cast lists.
On Chinese social media, some comments said the crackdown was reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution, a decade of political and social turmoil between 1966 and 1976 during which arts and culture were restricted to promoting party propaganda.
It was not immediately clear why Zhao was targeted.
The message from Xi Jinping is clear: he wants the people quiet and obedient. Anyone who stands out for any reason, be it an actress or a tech tycoon like Jack Ma, will be dealt with.
If you’re in China now, I urge you to emigrate. This will not end well.
More on China and tech:
China’s Tech Crackdown Means Economic Decline
China Is Crushing One of Its Most Innovative Companies
How China’s Tech Industry Dies
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Photo: “Chinese Soldiers in The Forbidden City – Beijing, China” by Patrick Rodwell is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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