Xinhua reports that Chinese authorities announced the launch of the new State Internet Information Office (SIIO) on Wednesday. Its mandate is to improve the legal, administrative and technical systems meant to regulate the internet, strengthen coordination between the different authorities tasked with monitoring for illegal/undesirable online activities, and investigate and punish offending websites. (And if they have time, extend the Great Wall a few more miles.)
Despite that ominous duty list, the authorities don’t intend to create a separate team to staff the office. Instead, the already busy beavers at the State Council Information Office (SCIO) will do double-duty. The official making the announcement identified online gambling, porn and vulgar content (throw in some hooch and you’ve got yourself a party) as specific areas of concern for the SIIO. The official also stated that China’s internet policies were based on solid legal footing and thus any international criticism was part of a ‘deliberate and groundless smear plot’ against the nation. (We think that translates as: gambling online = treason.)
Problem is, China is one gambling-crazy nation. The Financial Times’ Simon Kuper recalled being “Struck by the gambling” he observed on his first visit to China. “People were betting even under a statue of Marx and Engels in a Shanghai park.” And as their standard of living continues to improve, those guys in the park will eventually take their gambling online. (It’s gotta rain sometime.)
The World Bank estimates the global middle class will rise from 430m in 2000 to 1.2b by 2030. Two-thirds of that growth will come from China and India. Global management consulting outfit McKinsey projects that 29% of China’s households will attain middle class status by 2015. The Asian Development Bank says that Asian middle class spending power will increase eight-fold in the next 20 years. But you want an even more impressive statistic? The 2011 Credit Suisse Consumer Survey of Seven Emerging Markets asked 2,585 Chinese consumers what services they’d utilized online in the past six months: 2% said ‘gambling.’ The most recent American Gaming Association report found only 1% of Americans had gambled online in the past year.
China. Ignore it at your peril.