World of turf war in Beijing

Robert Clark
05 Nov 2009

It’s not easy being a Chinese government censor. For one thing, you have to fight for your place against the many other bodies whose role is to protect citizens from unhealthy books, movies, blogs and tweets.

Now playing in Beijing this week is the rare spectacle of open hostilities between Ministry of Culture and the General Administration of Press and Publications (GAPP) over its suspension of the World of Warcraft game earlier this week.

The ministry actually called a press conference yesterday to assail its rival, saying GAPP’s decision to pull the plug on WoW was “an act out of bounds”.

GAPP announced Monday it had suspended approval of the World of WarCraft MMORPG, telling games firm Netease to suspend commercial operations and not to accept new accounts.

In doing so GAPP defied a decision by State Council – China’s cabinet – which in July last took regulation of online gaming out of GAPP’s control and handed it to the Ministry of Culture.

Li Xiong, head of the ministry’s department of cultural markets, told the press conference that the ministry had the sole right to regulate online games. “As long as they're online, these online games and publications are fully subject to administration by the Ministry of Culture,” he said.

How China’s opaque bureaucracy will resolve this is anyone’s guess, but it seems everyone is a victim here.

That includes the enraged Ministry of Culture, Nasdaq-listed Netease, which has sold the game under license since June, and the WoW users – 14.6 million of them, according to

The other victim is poor old GAPP, the overlord of the print world, which has seen its domain shrivel under the impact of the net.

GAPP has argued that online games are a form of publication, which is a nice try, but you can’t help but think its army of censors are polishing their CVs. And becoming newbs.

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