On August 24 2017 the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) issued the final version of the Rules on the Administration of Internet Domain Names (New Domain Name Rules). These new rules came into effect on November 1 2017 and replaced the previous rules which came into force in 2004.

When compared with the draft of these new rules published in March 2016 (for further details please see “Towards a Greater Chinese Firewall?”) the most noticeable change in the new rules is the deletion of the controversial Article 37. Article 37 of the draft provided that any domain name with a website hosted in China must be registered with a Chinese domain name registrar, otherwise Chinese internet service providers will refuse internet access. Article 37 had led to concerns that all foreign websites would be blocked in China and that China’s Internet would become an intranet closed to other regions.

The US government issued a statement publicly criticising the Chinese government’s proposed stance on internet governance (for further details please see “US government slams Chinese domain name rules”). Various sources in the international media also interpreted the Draft as an attempt to exclude foreign websites from the Internet in China.

Perhaps in response to these concerns and controversies, the MIIT has removed Article 37 from the new domain name rules. While this is a welcome move, it remains to be seen whether and to what extent the Chinese government will relax its control over websites hosted in China and, more generally, the Internet. In practice, government control can still be exerted in other ways, including access-blocking and restrictions on internet content provider recordal.

Other notable changes in the new domain name rules (compared with the draft) include:

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