CHINA BLOCKS VPN TO INCREASE DIGITAL CONTROL
February 6, 2015
China has blocked access to several of the most popular virtual private networks (VPN), which allow users to access websites that are currently unavailable on the Chinese mainland, after disabling the use of Google services, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Flickr, Microsoft, Line, etc. China is protecting its “Internet Sovereignty” Lu Wei, China’s top Internet regulator,claimed last November.
China has the largest Web population in the world with 650 million users. According to both Global Times, a tabloid affiliated to Chinese official newspaper People’s Daily, and Bill Bishop, an American reporter living in China, “most of the 650 million Chinese Internet users don’t care about accessing the blocked sites overseas.” Moreover, besides filtering political sensitive information, the Global Times piece also claimed that stifling VPN is to protect Chinese Internet giants like Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent. Otherwise, China would become the realm of Google China, Yahoo China and Facebook China.
However, even though most Chinese Internet users may not care about the inconvenience involved with accessing foreign websites, those who do need to have efficient and unfiltered Internet access are the very people Beijing has been counting on to transform the nation’s low-end manufacturing economy into one fueled by entrepreneurial innovation. It is not a good sign when foreign companies doing business in China, Chinese business owners promoting their products online, Chinese scholars researching via Internet, and even Chinese students trying to submit their applications to American universities are standing up to complain about the “Great Firewall”, as China’s sophisticated censorship apparatus is known. Just as chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China James Zimmerman said, “One unfortunate result of excessive control over email and Internet traffic is the slowing down of legitimate commerce, and that is not something in China’s best interest.”
On the other hand, Chinese state-owned companies like Air China, and its rivals China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, and Hainan Airlines, are reported to use social networks like Facebook beyond China’s borders to boost their share of market. About 60 percent of passengers used foreign carriers, rather than Chinese ones, for their trips to and from China in 2013. That is probably the reason why Air China and its domestic rivals created Facebook pages, which is quite sensible. With the domestic market demanding to access the rest of the world, will Beijing continue to harden its Internet restrictions?
For more information on this topic, consult the following sources:
China Digital Times – “China Seeks Digital Control, from U.N. to CPU”
The Wall Street Journal – “China Owns ‘Great Firewall,’ Credits Censorship With Tech Success”
Bloomberg Business – “Air China Likes Facebook for Marketing, Despite Ban”
Business Insider – “China Has Escalated Internet Censorship To A New Level”
China Daily – “VPN providers ‘must obey rules'”
South China Morning Post – “China blocks VPN services that let internet users get around censorship”
New York Times – “China Further Tightens Grip on the Internet”
环球时报 – “社评：防火墙带给中国互联网哪些影响”
中央通讯社 – “翻牆工具失靈 大陸封殺VPN”
联合新闻网 – “中共阻翻牆 封鎖多家VPN”
Compiled and edited by Stella Ran Zheng