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China Sanctions Two Web Sites to Carry News

The Chinese government has granted licenses for two commercial Web sites, SINA.com and SOHU.com, to carry the official state news.

With the licenses from the State Council's Ministry of News, SINA.com and SOHU.com now join a select list of Web sites that publish online news from Xinhua, the state-run Chinese news agency. Chinadotcom already carries the official government news through a joint venture between Xinhua and industry leader America Online.

Additionally, neither company said specifically whether or not they had been approved to produce news -- a major distinction in China, as reported by asia.internet.com. That right is reserved almost exclusively for Xinhua.

To be sure, the actions by the Chinese government still a step in the right direction for opening up the nation's tightly scrutinized Internet activities. According to the latest regulations published on Nov. 7, all Web sites operating in China are required to seek official government approval in order to publish news online. These guidelines were among the first body of laws set forth by the Chinese government to normalize Internet regulations in preparation for China's entry into the World Trade Organization.

"This is the first time the Central Government has given us such an important formal stamp of approval...We now have the official blessing from the highest government level to continue to offer the informative and entertaining news that millions of Chinese Netizens are used to enjoying at SOHU.com," said Charles Zhang, CEO and president of SOHU.com.

SINA.com echoed similar sentiments. "We are very pleased and honored...this latest news license demonstrates the government's commitment to China's Internet industry and recognition of the strong role that the private sector will play in the Internet's future development," said Wang Zhidong, president and CEO of SINA.com.