So What Is… The Great Firewall of China?

Many websites that are used daily by people in the West (Facebook, YouTube, Google etc) cannot be accessed in China. The reason things are like this is due to internet censorship in China put into place by the government.

Why would they do this, you ask? Well, the Chinese Government are a tricky bunch. Essentially, they want to control what sites people have access to, and, on a broader scale, the information they have access to.

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I’m sure you have heard about China’s Great Firewall. But what exactly is it and why does it exist?

To answer that question, we have to go back to the year 2000 when China introduced the ‘Golden Shield Project’ – A massive, Government run, internet censorship, and surveillance project.

China’s argument for employing this massive-scale, internet censorship is that it’s a way to maintain social order among a huge population and protect its national security.

In 2013, China decided on seven “bottom lines” that social-media content must not conflict with. These are: China’s rules and laws, the socialist system, the country’s national interests, the legitimate interests of citizens, public order, morality, and authentic information.

The vagueness of these 7 points aid in allowing Chinese authorities to crack down on virtually anything they deem censorship worthy.

Due to this fact, Chinese netizens must err on the side of caution when making social media posts or stating their views on China and its leadership online. Self-censorship is important in order not to contravene with these strict yet vague censorship laws.

Internet Censorship in China – A Case Study:

Shawn Zhang is a Chinese law student studying abroad in Canada. He has a great interest in Chinese censorship and human rights.

A day after Chinese legislature voted to do away with presidential terms, he decided to conduct an experiment as to the extent of Chinese internet censorship.

On his Weibo account (a popular social media platform in China) he reposted the following picture of Chinese president Xi JinPing. Not even 12 hours later, the Chinese police had called his mother to tell her to tell Shawn to delete the post. Shawn then posted the following on his Twitter account:

Whatever the true reason is for the Great Firewall of China, it exists and you’re planning on going to China, then you’re going to have to deal with it… Unless of course, you invest in a VPN.

What’s a VPN?

VPN stands for ‘Virtual Private Network’ and is a secure and private way to send and receive information through the internet. A VPN is essentially a secure ‘tunnel’ that allows you to avoid the Great Firewall of China and access any site you wish to.

China does, however, often crackdown on VPN usage and you’ll find that during sensitive government meetings your VPN might stop working.

However, the VPN companies usually adjust quickly and their services keep working. It’s like a back and forth game of tug of war between the Chinese Government and the VPN providers.

Having a good VPN installed on your Computer and phone is essential before going to China, especially if you run an online business.

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