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China Un-Bans Facebook, Twitter in Shanghai

China is lifting its ban on a handful of heretofore banned websites within the Shanghai Free Trade Zone.

Included among those now considered acceptable are Facebook, Twitter and The New York Times’ website.

The Shanghai Free Trade Zone, announced in July, has more free market-friendly policies than China at large. To that end, the Shanghai Free Trade Zone will entertain bids from foreign telecommunications companies to provide Internet services within the zone, sources told the South China Morning Post — something that was impossible in the past.

The Shanghai zone is being treated as “a key proving ground for significant financial and economic reforms,” the SCMP reported.

The decision to permit Facebook and Twitter within the special zone should not be mistaken as a sign that Beijing is knocking down its “Great Firewall,” however. Earlier this month, China’s Supreme Court announced stiffer penalties for people posting online rumors (and we’re talking about the Communist Party’s highly malleable definition of “rumor”). This decision has prompted popular social media personalities to tamp down their online musings.

Facebook’s COO recently visited China as well.

[Sources: South China Morning Post; Tech In Asia]

Microsoft Teaming With Chinese Media Company

BesTV New Media, a Shanghai media company, announced Monday that it plans to embark on an entertainment development venture with Microsoft.

The duo, which together is investing US$237 million, plans to develop games and related services. This could be a way for Microsoft to sell its Xbox game console in China, which has long restricted video game consoles, The Seattle Times points out.

In a bulletin posted on the Shanghai Stock Exchange, BesTV said that it will hold a 51 percent share in the company, and Microsoft 49 percent. BesTV will choose the company’s board chairman, while Microsoft will tab the CEO.

The name of the venture is “E-Home Entertainment Development.” It will be registered in the aforementioned Shanghai Free Trade Zone.

[Sources:Xinhuaand The Seattle Times via The Register]

Xiaomi Drops Red Star From Marketing

Xiaomi, the Chinese phone maker that recently hired Google executive Huge Barra to head the company, appears to have dropped the red star from some of its marketing mascot’s attire.

In the past, the company used a bunny mascot that wore an Ushanka (one of those furry Russian hats). The Ushanka featured a red, five-pointed star, which has long been linked to Communism.

The star, though, may have been erased.

Tech In Asia spotted a star-less hat on Xiaomi’s Taiwanese Facebook page. The star is also absent on materials for Miliao, Xiaomi’s messaging app.

The bunny still has his red star in some images, including at least one with traditional Chinese writing, suggesting that the company could be tailoring the bunny’s garb depending on where an ad is placed.

[Source: Tech In Asia]

BlackBerry Going Private

BlackBerry has agreed to a $4.7 billion deal to go private.

The $9-per-share offer, made by a consortium led by the company’s biggest shareholder, Fairfax Financial Holdings, comes after BlackBerry’s August announcement that it was mulling going private while it searches for a way to survive in the smartphone world that seems to have passed it by.

BlackBerry shares hit higher than $148 in 2008, the company’s heyday. The stock price closed at $8.82 Monday.

BlackBerry can seek better offers until November 4; the Fairfax group would be able to match any such offers.

[Source: Reuters]

David Vranicar is a freelance journalist and author ofThe Lost Graduation: Stepping off campus and into a crisis. You can check out hisECT News archive here, and you can email him at david[dot]vranicar[at]newsroom[dot]ectnews[dot]com.

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