There are 649 Million chinese online – but they don’t exist in our world wide web. They live in their own, state constructed online world that is cordoned off to the rest of the us due to China’s extensive censorship program The Great Firewall. They have created an intranet for the Chinese population that is easily controlled, limits interactions with outside information and censors what can be seen inside of it. The firewall is used to control the populace and screen them from viewing “dangerous” material deemed inappropriate by state – for example there is no mention of the Tienanmen Square protests of 1989. Since their leader Xi Jinping has taken rule, he has successfully created the Chinese intranet, protecting his land from western influence. Not only has information been silenced, but those who speak up online against the government, corruption or pollution have been as well.
There have been ways to go around this wall such as Virtual Private Networks (
VPNs), as many Chinese need outside interaction with the world through the internet for business and communication and education opportunities. But they have mostly been made incredibly difficult to access,and the Chinese authorities have always caught up so far on how to continue the censorship. Facebook, Gmail, Youtube and Twitter are all massive western websites that have been blocked from Chinese internet and this has caused unrest in the population, specifically with young chinese – indications on their favoured social networking page Weibo that young Chinese people wish to leave china to gain access to information and a free internet.
There is a pattern of double standards here though. Fang Binxing is the architect of the Chinese firewall. During a lecture in early April this year on web security, Fang resorted to using a hidden VPN installed on his computer to override a censored webpage in front of everyone. This is important to note because the use of VPNs are heavily frowned upon, and is obviously not encouraged by Chinese officials, Fang used it anyway – the one thing that can be used to go around the same censorship he created. Not that he has kept it hidden that he has used them before –
To quote – “I have six VPNs on my home computer … but I only try them to test which side wins: the GFW [Great Firewall] or the VPN.” …“It’s a ceaseless war between the GFW and VPNs…. So far, the GFW is lagging behind and still needs improvement.”
China is a leader in fighting for cyber sovereignty, the right to control its domestic internet space. You can actually go onto this website greatfirewallofchina.org and type in any domain name and see whether it would be blocked on chinese internet. So while facebook, gmail, youtube, twitter, instagram, vimeo and soundcloud are all blocked it’s interesting to see that myspace, The Tibet Post and uh, pornhub for example… are all ok according to Xi Jinping.
There is also another webpage called GreatFire.org and it is a tool used to go around, unblock and allow entrance from the western side into chinese internet. It includes access to Weibo, uncensored news and access to censored books in china.