Mobile network operators and smartphone application providers in Beijing drew up an agreement on Wednesday to enhance internal controls, improve supervision of the content of apps and keep the industry in good order.
The growth of mobile technology has brought a great deal of convenience for users who surf the Internet or keep in touch via social media networks while on the move.
However, smartphone applications with security gaps, or that are used to spread rumors and pornography, have created problems, according to the Beijing Internet Association.
The association, in an effort to tackle such problems and clean up the industry, has urged 50 mobile network operators and application providers across the capital to sign the agreement.
The document calls for stricter inspections of apps before they are uploaded to online stores.
Zhang Yuejin, director of the association's information security committee, said the agreement is intended to maintain a fair competitive environment in the industry, while encouraging Internet giants to behave in a more socially responsible way instead of focusing only on earning money.
Net group urges operators to step up controls on apps
China had 632 million Internet users at the end of June, including 527 million who access the Web from mobile devices, and the total is expected to rise to 850 million next year.
"Smartphone applications represent the most advanced Internet technology, so the information they carry and the degree to which they are safe will affect the future development of the industry and people's lives," Zhang said.
Xu Xiaolong, deputy manager of the app store run by smartphone maker Xiaomi, said his team spends a considerable amount of time removing applications with unacceptable content every day.
"Apps with pornographic content are the ones our inspection team deletes most frequently, followed by ones that steal money from users," Xu said. At least 200 requests for apps to be removed from the store are received every day, he added.
"If we find someone who uploads unacceptable apps five times, he is put on a blacklist," he said. "Some apps are found to have problems after they pass through our inspections, which requires us to increase checks on the updated contents."
Yu Dan from search giant Baidu said he supports the improvement of internal controls by mobile network operators, and added that the agreement is timely.
The Cyberspace Administration of China, the nation's Internet watchdog, said at the beginning of the month that it is working on guidelines for smartphone applications to ensure that the industry develops in line with the law.
Tong Liqiang, director of the authority's Beijing branch, said then that the guidelines were among a number of rules for the Internet that the organization is studying.
Yu said, "Wednesday's agreement is a timely measure that can be said to echo the decision to draw up app guidelines."
Yang Hongpeng of security software provider Qihoo 360 said stricter inspection of apps by companies could reduce security risks online. However, he said the city's government should establish uniform standards for the removal of apps.
Retailing giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc said Wednesday it has laid off some 30 senior executives in its China unit in an effort to "streamline and simplify" its business, Bloomberg reported.
The departure of these executives is "consistent with actions taken over the last several months," Ray Bracy, Wal-Mart's China spokesman, said in an e-mail reply to Bloomberg.
This is not the first time Wal-Mart has decided to downsize its workforce in China. In March this year, employees at Wal-Mart store in Changde, Central China's Hunan Province, launched a protest as they were unsatisfied with the company's employee resettlement plan, news portal 163.com reported Wednesday.
China's thriving mobile payment market will witness a new battle for dominance between Apple Inc and its local smartphone rivals, with industry insiders anticipating a direct showdown between Apple Pay and a home-grown digital wallet service in late 2015.
Analysts said the Android Pay project, which is led by Shanghai-based bankcard association China UnionPay, will have widespread support from Chinese handset vendors.
These vendors sell about 300 million Android operating system-based phones each year in the country.
Citing anonymous sources, Shanghai-based newspaper China Business News reported on Tuesday the proposed service will be launched in the third quarter of 2015 and UnionPay is seeking partnerships with local smartphone manufacturers.
UnionPay would not confirm the existence of the Android Pay project, but it did express an interest in establishing a new payment service.
In a statement to China Daily, the company said: "We have been constantly trying new technologies and business models in the mobile payment sector."
Established in 2002, UnionPay has about 400 domestic and overseas members.
Wang Yanhui, secretary-general of the industry organization Mobile China Alliance, said in his micro-blog account that UnionPay had decided to team up with local handset makers as early as last week.
Major smartphone makers, including Xiaomi Corp, Lenovo Group Ltd and ZTE Corp, had not announced any such arrangements as of Tuesday.
Sources from Lenovo's supply chain told China Daily that the company is developing a new phone equipped with fingerprint unlocking capability. The feature can be used as a substitute for entering passwords before transactions.
Only a handful of local smartphones support near field communication, a technology used in wireless handset payment services. Virtually no brick-and-mortar stores in China have installed cashier systems that accept NFC-enabled payments.
NFC is not popular even in the United States, where Apple first deployed its wireless payment service known as Apple Pay. The service is available only in selected stores in the US, including McDonald's Corp restaurants and department stores run by Macy's Inc.
Popular retailers such as Best Buy Co Inc (electronics), Wal-Mart Stores Inc and two major pharmacy chains (CVS Health Corp and Rite-Aid Corp) do not accept Apple Pay.
Over the past week, Apple announced it had started to accept online payments made through UnionPay cards at its Chinese mainland app store. The US-based company subsequently kicked off a UnionPay-customers-only promotion campaign by lowering the download price of more than 100 apps to 1 yuan (16 cents).
Analysts speculated this move meant Apple would soon launch Apple Pay on the Chinese mainland.
According to industry consultancy Forrester Research Inc, Apple Pay's technology will accelerate payments and enable new customer experiences in the coming year.
"China and Australia will run ahead with Apple Pay on mobile (in 2015)," Forrester said.
It also said that the mobile payments landscape in China and other Asia-Pacific markets would remain fragmented over the next year. Wang said the official Apple Pay launch in China is likely in March 2015.
Li Ye, a researcher from Analysys International, said that with China opening up the bank card clearing market, UnionPay's position as the only bank card organization is being challenged.
"Quick emergence of third-party online transaction channels forced UnionPay to find new business models suited to the mobile Internet era," Li said.
The mobile transaction volume of third-party platforms exceeded 2 trillion yuan in the third quarter of this year, a jump of 25.6 percent year-on-year, statistics from Analysys International show.
"Although Apple Pay has yet to enter the Chinese market, it has heightened local players' interest in mobile phone payments and NFC technology," it said.
Shanghai's municipal government announced plans to create an advanced insurance market that meets the demand of economic and social development for the metropolis, with plans to make itself an international insurance center by 2020.
The insurance penetration rate, or premiums as a share of GDP, has goals to rise by six percent and the insurance density, the per capita premium, will reach 7,300 yuan (1,189 U.S. dollars) in the city by the year of 2020, according to the detailed enforcement proposal released on Tuesday to implement the State Council's plans of speeding up development of the modern insurance services.
Taking advantage of the Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone, the municipal government pledged to accelerate system innovation and opening up of the insurance sector in the proposal.
Shanghai will also highlight the insurance sector's functions in building an international financial center and shipping service center, and increase the role of insurance in promoting social security.
Shares of Shanghai-based BesTV New Media Co and Shanghai Oriental Pearl Group surged on news that the two companies would merge as part of the city's push to reform state-owned media companies.
BesTV is merging with Oriental Pearl through a share swap with one share for every 3.04 shares of the target company, valuing the latter at 10.69 yuan (US$1.74) per share, according to a stock exchange filing yesterday. BesTV surged by the daily limit of 10 percent to 35.19 yuan.
Oriental Pearl would be delisted on completion of the deal. The company's shares also jumped 10 percent to 12.01 yuan yesterday.
BesTV will also acquire companies such as SMG Pictures, Wings Media, Shanghai Interactive TV, and TV shopping company Oriental CJ through a private placement at 32.54 yuan per share to cement its market position and diversify revenue streams.
"Through the acquisition, BesTV now covers the whole industry including content production and Internet distribution channels, and it fits with China's reform and consolidation in the media sector," China International Capital Co said in a research note yesterday.
BesTV will also issue new shares to raise up to 10 billion yuan through a private placement with 10 institutional investors, including Shanghai Media Group Investment Center, the Bank of Communications Culture Investment Fund and China Merchants Fund.
Part of the capital will be used to fund Internet TV projects at the new entity after the completion of the merger.
Parent Shanghai Media Group will remain the controlling shareholder of BesTV with 45.07 percent after the merger.
The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has lowered drug and medicine prices more than 30 times over recent years. Yet some drugs are still being sold at inflated prices, while other low-cost medicines are often in short supply.
As in all markets, pricing is a key factor in the sale of medicines as it naturally affects the supply and demand of various products. The NDRC's decrees alone cannot effectively lower medicine prices because the commission's regulations clash with the natural order of the drug market.
Regulators must give more leeway to drugmakers when it comes to setting the prices of their products. This is not to suggest that proper supervision is unnecessary with various factors affecting prices. While the government does have a responsibility to regulate prices of electricity, water, medicine and other services and commodities that are closely related to the public good, allowing the market to play its role in resource allocation is essential in coordinating the healthy development of the drug industry. Only by granting more discretion to drugmakers will efforts to reform the medical industry truly be realized.
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