Nova Scotia to build ‘100% China-friendly’ website, navigate censorship in bid to grow commerce

China's ambassador to Canada Lu Shaye shakes hands with Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil in Halifax on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. The Canadian Press/Keith Doucette

Nova Scotia is looking to build a “100% China-friendly” website as it continues to seek a productive trade relationship with the global trading power.

But the creation of a China-friendly promotional website also means that Nova Scotia must comply with the country’s strict internet censorship regulations, colloquially known as China’s “Great Firewall.”

Nova Scotia Business Inc. (NSBI), the agency responsible for developing the province’s business interests, issued a tender for the website on Friday asking for web developers to create a website that would launch by Nov. 1.

The tender was first reported by the Toronto Star on Friday.

READ MORE: China’s ambassador makes second trip to Nova Scotia, calls McNeil ‘great friend’

The documents indicate that NSBI wants to establish a website that would draw investors to Nova Scotia and find potential sale opportunities for Nova Scotia exporters.

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The tender specifies that the developer of the website must have the “expertise to navigate China’s digital restrictions.”

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Those restrictions filter everything that Chinese internet users see, blocking controversial content – including political speech – and restricting access to western media outlets that are critical of China.

NSBI says that in order to be 100 per cent China-friendly, the website should be hosted in China, free of links to blocked sites, easily discoverable by Chinese search engines and optimized for Chinese users.

The decision is only the latest in a series of overtures by Premier Stephen McNeil’s provincial government to court business interests in China despite rising tensions between Canada and China.

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McNeil has made several trips to China since taking office in 2013 and also welcomed senior Communist Party officials to the province — being praised as a “great friend” to China as a result.

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The premier has told reporters that it was best to maintain a dialogue and try to build relationships despite the worsening relations that followed the December arrest in Vancouver of Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou after an American request for her extradition.

After Meng’s arrest, China detained two Canadians – ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor – and accused them of violating China’s national security.

China has also sentenced two Canadians to death for drug-related convictions and blocked key agricultural shipments.

With files from The Canadian Press

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