Wednesday, November 30, 2016

China’s Great Leap Backward; The Atlantic, December 2016

James Fallows, The Atlantic; China’s Great Leap Backward:
"China’s internet, always censored and firewalled, is now even more strictly separated from the rest of the world’s than ever before, and becoming more so. China’s own internet companies (Baidu as a search engine rather than Google, WeChat for Twitter) are more heavily censored. Virtual private networks and other work-arounds, tolerated a decade ago—the academic who invented China’s “Great Firewall” system of censorship even bragged about the six VPNs he used to keep up on foreign developments—are now under governmental assault. When you find a network that works, you dare not mention its name on social media or on a website that could alert the government to its existence. “It’s an endless cat-and-mouse,” the founder of a California-based VPN company, which I’m deliberately not identifying, recently told me. “We figure out a new route or patch, and then they notice that people are using us and they figure out how to block it. Eventually they wear most users down.” On a multiweek visit to China early last year, I switched among three VPNs and was able to reach most international sites using my hotel-room Wi-Fi. On a several-day visit last December, the hassle of making connections was not worth it, and I just did without Western news sources.
China’s print and broadcast media have always been state-controlled and pro-government. But a decade ago I heard from academics and party officials that “reasonable” criticism from the press actually had an important safety-valve function, as did online commentary, in alerting the government to emerging problem spots.
Those days are gone. Every week or two the Chinese press carries warnings, more and more explicit, by President Xi Jinping and his colleagues that dissent is not permissible and the party’s interests come first."

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