Beijing will also accept bids from foreign telecommunications companies to provide Internet services

China is looking to attract more foreign investment by allowing those in the Shanghai Free-trade Zone to access websites like Facebook and Twitter. 

Lifting the ban on Internet access is a big deal in China, considering websites like Facebook and Twitter have been off-limits since 2009. However, the ban will only be lifted in the Shanghai Free-trade Zone -- the rest of mainland China will still be prohibited from using such sites. 

According to the South China Morning Post, Beijing made this decision in order to bring foreign investments to the free-trade zone. In order to do this, government authorities said websites like Facebook, Twitter and The New York Times need to be made available in order to make foreigners feel more at home. 

“In order to welcome foreign companies to invest and to let foreigners live and work happily in the free-trade zone, we must think about how we can make them feel like at home," said an anonymous government source, which spoke with the South China Morning Post. "If they can’t get onto Facebook or read The New York Times, they may naturally wonder how special the free-trade zone is compared with the rest of China."

In addition, officials said they would accept bids from foreign telecommunications companies to provide Internet in the free-trade zone through licenses. China's three major providers (China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom) have already been informed of the plan, but haven't made any complaints due to the fact that it's isolated to that one area.

The free-trade zone in Shanghai will span 28.78 square kilometers (nearly 18 miles) in the city’s Pudong New Area, but could be expanded to 1,210.4 square kilometers in the next few years. This area includes the Waigaoqiao duty-free zone, Yangshan deepwater port, and the international airport area.

This is obviously a win for the companies like Facebook and Twitter, who will see this as a new way to reach China and possibly a floodgate to one day spreading to the rest of the country. 

Source: South China Morning Post

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