China to permit banned sites in Shanghai FTZ

Websites banned by Chinese authorities are to be made accessible in a new free trade zone (FTZ) in Shanghai. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and the New York Times, deemed sensitive and blocked in mainland China, will be permitted in the zone to make foreign investors forming a company in China more at home.

"In order to welcome foreign companies to invest and to let foreigners live and work happily in the free-trade zone, we must think about how we can make them feel like at home," an anonymous government source told the South China Morning Post. "If they can't get onto Facebook or read The New York Times, they may naturally wonder how special the free-trade zone is compared with the rest of China."

Facebook and Twitter have been banned on mainland China since 2009, following riots in the western province of Xinjiang that authorities say were linked to activity on the social networking sites. The New York Times has been blocked since 2012 for reporting that the family of then-Premier Wen Jiabao had amassed a huge fortune.

Meanwhile China's three biggest telecommunications companies have been informed of the decision to allow foreign companies to compete with them for business in the Shanghai FTZ.

The FTZ, which will be launched officially on September 29th, is one of more than a dozen such areas with relaxed economic and government policies designed to encourage foreign investment. 

Spanning an area of nearly 29 square kilometres, the area could be expanded over the next few years to include the entire Pudong district, a region covering some 1,210.4 square kilometres.

The zone is designed to liberalise interest rates, ease restrictions on foreign investment and allow freer currency convertibility of China's yuan. China's State Council approved the first of the FTZs in July.

Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing chief executive officer Charles Li said the planned Shanghai FTZ shows China is speeding up economic liberalisation.

"If the policies we've known can be implemented, it will be an important milestone for China's opening up," he told Bloomberg.

TMF has offices in China where our local experts can help businesses seamlessly expand across borders. With legal, HR and payroll and accountancy staff, we take the administrative hassle out of international expansion, leaving you free to concentrate on your global ambitions.

TMF Group experts 
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