The Advertising Law of the People's Republic of China (中华人民共和国广告法), which came into force in 1994 and was revised in 2015, defines regulations regarding advertising within China and is therefore an important set of rules for companies, which, among other things, applies to the content of a website or web application operated in China.
The law is intended to protect the interests of consumers. Many of the aspects contained in the law coincide with rules that also apply in Europe. But the Chinese Advertising Law goes a step further in some areas. Therefore, it is often not sufficient for foreign companies that want to operate a website in China to translate the content of the existing website into Chinese. This is because there is a risk that not all content will be in compliance with the Chinese Advertising Law.
The most relevant rules of the Advertising Law
The Chinese law covers a very broad spectrum of which advertising measures are permitted and for which certain requirements must be observed. In this context, "advertising" is not only to be understood as advertising in the classical sense, but rather as all marketing measures within the territory of the People's Republic of China and thus in particular the content of a website operated in China.
When creating or translating content for a Chinese website and the associated advertising measures, particular attention should therefore be paid to the following points:
- The texts used must be formulated truthfully and comprehensibly, and must not contain any misleading formulations. This also means that quotations or statistics used must be substantiated with the corresponding source.
- Competitors must not be denigrated.
- National symbols of the People's Republic of China, such as the national flag or the national anthem, may not be used. The use of names or pictures of employees of the Chinese state is also prohibited.
- Furthermore, the texts must not endanger the public interest, the interest of the state or the stability of society. A special aspect of this regulation is that the word "China" may not be used in the domain name of a website in certain contexts.
- If a product or method is advertised that has been patented, the patent number and type must also be indicated in this case. The legal text does not specify whether only Chinese patents are affected.
- In addition, no violent, pornographic or obscene content may be distributed. Also, the presentation of gambling or content that is discriminatory in any way is prohibited.
- Certain words may not be used. The legal text explicitly mentions the words "national" (国家级) or superlatives such as "highest" (最高级) or "best" (最佳) or similar words.
In addition, in April 2021, the MIIT issued in a "Letter on the verification and handling of illegal use of website names" (关于核查处理违规使用网站名称相关情况的函), that the terms "China" (中国), "Central" (中央), "State" (国家), "State Council" (国务院), as well as terms for the Communist Party of China (中国共产党 or 中共) may not be used in website names, page titles and other meta information.
In general, the law is deliberately formulated vaguely and leaves open exactly which words are to be considered "similar words". In essence, it is important here that, on the one hand, you are not allowed to advertise your own company or your own services and products with superlatives. At the same time, website names and website meta-information must not imply that it is an official website of the Chinese state or that the company has any special relationship with the Chinese state, ministries or political parties in China. The use of words such as "China" should therefore be refrained from in the website name and other meta-information.
- Internet advertising must not interfere with the user's "normal use of the Internet". For example, advertising content that is displayed via a pop-up must give the user the option of closing it with one click via a close button.
- Newsletters sent to the user must contain the true identity of the sender as well as the sender's contact details. This is comparable to the imprint obligation known in Germany. The recipient must also be given the option to stop further receipt of the advertising (opt out button).
- In addition, there are special rules for advertising on Chinese websites with regard to areas such as alcohol, tobacco, education or medication and other areas. These can be viewed in the following document of the Advertising Law, translated into English by weber.cloud China, in Articles 15 ff.
In contrast to websites in Europe, the point about forbidden superlatives is the biggest difference. Especially when a new website is to be created for the Chinese market, the content is often based on existing texts from the company's headquarter website, which also likes to advertise its own services/products with superlatives. Due to the regulations in the Advertising Law of the People's Republic of China, the mere translation of content is therefore a rather risky undertaking, as it can quickly lead to a violation of the law.
English translation of the Advertising Law of the People's Republic of China
As a special service, we offer our customers a free English translation of the Advertising Law of the People's Republic of China, to further view some points in more detail. However, this is a free translation for which weber.cloud China assumes no liability for the topicality, correctness, completeness or quality.
English translation of the Advertising Law of the People's Republic of China (PDF, 510 KB)
Consequences of non-compliance
As soon as the Chinese authorities detect an infringement, the person responsible for the website, who is listed in the ICP license, will be visited by the local police. This person must then ensure that the website is taken offline immediately and that the content is revised in accordance with the law. Only after the relevant texts have been amended may the website be put back online.
In addition, a fine is imposed. The law includes a catalog of penalties, which may be linked to the costs of advertising, if these can be specifically quantified. Unlawful website content could result in a fine of at least 200,000 yuan to 1,000,000 yuan (approximately €25,000 - €130,000).
If the violation is particularly serious, the Chinese company license may also be withdrawn. This also means that the ICP license and the possibility to operate a website in China will be withdrawn.
Therefore, companies should carefully consider the cultural context of advertising in the People's Republic of China and ensure that their own website does not violate any requirements imposed by the Chinese state. As already discussed, it is important to note that an existing language version cannot simply be translated into Chinese, as superlatives are often translated as well, which would lead to a violation of the advertising law.
You still have questions?
With several years of experience in hosting a wide variety of websites, webshops and web applications, including booking platforms or online expos, in China, weber.cloud China is happy to help you with your open questions. Our experts will be happy to advise you on the operation of your website in China and will be happy to provide you with assessments of the advertising law and its implications for your company from our wealth of experience. For more in-depth legal questions, we can also put you in touch with our English-speaking partner lawyers in China. Of course, we can also assist you with all questions regarding hosting in China and offer you the right solution to deliver your website to China with high performance.
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