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Telecom Draft Law on the Right Tracks

China is busy paving the way for the debut of its long-anticipated law on telecommunications to strengthen the legal muscle of the fast-growing telecom and Internet markets, a move expected to appease global investors and extend legal shelter for domestic consumers.

Information industry top watchdog Wu Jichuan told China Daily in an interview yesterday that preparations for the drafting of the long-anticipated law of telecommunications are on the right tracks.

"A team of telecom experts has been set up to give advice and consultations on matters pertaining to the law,'' he said.

Wu, minister of information industry, said crafting comprehensive legal networks for telecom and Internet businesses is one of the top priorities for the next five years.

"Besides the law of telecommunications, we will work on a spate of laws and regulations regarding foreign access to China's telecom market, electronics businesses, the protection of online intellectual rights, cyber privacy and Internet crime.''

Calls are heating up for the birth of a law on telecommunications in China as foreign investors pin their hopes on it acting as a clear guideline for investment and operation.

The growth of China's information industry has been an acid test for the legal sector as the area currently lack a comprehensive law to guide the market.

China has long relied on a flurry of regulations mapped out by central and local administrators to govern the information industry.

"Knitting up a net of laws for the burgeoning markets will help keep the whole market in good shape and create a fair and ordered environment in line with global practices,'' said Zeng Peiyan, head of the State Development Planning Commission.

Zeng, addressing the two-day International Symposium on Network Economy and Economic Governance yesterday, said that governing the market with laws will help China achieve a smooth entry into the World Trade Organization.

China's telecom and Internet market has caught the attention of global businesses as one of the fastest growing telecom markets in the world, and one which is expected to overpower its US equivalent in the next five years, becoming the largest in the world.

By the end of last year, China's netizen population had hit 22.5 million, a jump of 153 percent over 1999, while the number of fixed-line and mobile phone subscribers has reached 230 million, making it the second largest telecom market in the world.

The information industry in China will continue its fast paced growth at an annual clip of over 20 percent, with its fixed-line and mobile phone subscribers exceeding US numbers to become the world's largest within the next five years, said Wu.

He went on to say that China is busy constructing a nationwide high-speed broadband information superhighway which will be able to transmit voice, digital and image information, and will thus be a backbone for China's information industry in the new century.

"The network will dance to the global trend of integrating telephone, Internet and cable TVs, and will make sure China has one of the world's best equipped information industries,'' said Wu.

However, China still lags behind developed countries in information industry development, said finance minister Xiang Huaicheng, who cited inadequate information infrastructure and China's heavy reliance on key equipment and technology imports as the reasons.

"China's Net population is still 1.8 percent of its total population, a figure which falls well short of the world average, and the number of computers per 100 persons in Western countries is still 30 to 50 times that of China,'' said Xiang.

Xiang has committed proactive financial support, tax rebates and preferential policies to transforming China's brick-and-mortar firms into web-based economies.

(China Daily 04/20/2001)

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