App update

China's new app rules have created a headache for tech giants like Apple

App developers will be required to submit business information to the Chinese government

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A woman holds two Chinese flags in her hand while looking at her mobile phone. The Beijing Drum Tower is visible in the background.
Photo: Kevin Frayer (Getty Images)

China announced new measures (link in Chinese) that will require both domestic and foreign-based app developers to report business details to the government as Beijing seeks to increase its oversight of the tech sector.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) said in its announcement on Aug. 8 that the policy is intended to crack down on industry fraud. Existing apps will have until March 2024 to file the required paperwork, the notice said, while starting in September of this year, new apps will be required to submit paperwork before release.


The announcement also said that inspection of the developer filings will be carried out from April to June next year. Those in violation could be subject to penalties, but they were not specified.

The new policy also requires (link in Chinese) those providing internet information services in news, publishing, film, television, education, and religion to submit documents to the provincial communication management bureau where they are located.


Facebook, Instagram, and other foreign apps are likely to face difficulties

While foreign social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are blocked in China, they are still available to download from app stores and use through a VPN. The new app policy is likely to make that practice more difficult as Beijing seeks to step up its monitoring and control of social networks.

The requirement for local registration is especially tricky. Companies abroad will need to either have a base in China or go through a domestic partner to comply with the new rules, said Rich Bishop, CEO of AppInChina, a company that helps foreign apps get published in the country, as reported in Reuters.

Russia passed a similar policy in July 2021, in which foreign social media firms were required to establish a domestic branch to continue operations.


Apple has also removed AI apps from its China store to comply with new regulations

Apple reportedly pulled over 100 generative AI apps in July from the App Store in China in anticipation of other new regulations (link in Chinese) that are set to take effect on Aug. 15. The impending rules will require AI apps in the country to obtain a license from the MIIT.

A screenshot of a tweet in Chinese showing four images listing Chinese apps.
Images of AI apps X user @foxshuo says have been recently removed from the Apple App Store in China.
Screenshot: @foxshuo on X (Other)

Apps including Spark, ChatGAi Plus, and OpenCat have been taken down, according to the South China Morning Post. OpenCat developer Zhenlu Zuo posted a screenshot of the Apple removal notice he received on X, formerly Twitter.


The notice said OpenCat “include[d] content that is illegal in China.” It continued, “The government has been tightening regulations associated with deep synthesis technologies (DST) and generative AI services, including ChatGPT. [...] Based on our review, your app is associated with ChatGPT, which does not have requisite permits to operate in China.”

Apple removed over 46,000 apps from its Chinese App Store in 2020, according to an estimate from research firm Qimai, to avoid violating an earlier round of new licensing requirements.


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