The People's Republic of China, the planet's most rumbustious economy, has yet to embrace freedom of thought and speech with the same enthusiasm as the joys of making a fast buck.

Earlier this week the Chinese government introduced new rules to limit news and other information available to local web users, at the same time clamping down on the breadth of permitted online content.

The nation's ruling Communist Party views the increasing trend toward media liberalization as a threat - especially the internet which has been embraced with enthusiasm by an estimated 100 million online Chinese.

Some of the most popular portals and search engines - among them and, viewed by millions daily - have been told to cease posting their own commentary and news articles, replacing them with opinion pieces regurgitated from government-controlled newspapers and agencies.

Private individuals and groups must now register as "news organizations" before being allowed to offer news or commentary via email distribution lists. It is unlikely that more than a handful will be permitted to do this.

In addition, extant newspaper and magazine news sites must "give priority" news and views distributed by approved national and provincial news media.

According to the commissars: "The foremost responsibility of news sites on the internet is to serve the people, serve socialism, guide public opinion in the right direction, and uphold the interests of the country and the public good."

However, the New York Times reports that even in the face of government monitoring and censorship of overseas-based websites, astute Chinese surfers can still access domestic and overseas information barred from the nation's traditional news media.

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by WARC staff