Why is China blocking its internet

China is sealing off its Internet even more

Facebook is blocked in China. Twitter, Flickr, Instagram and the website of the New York Times as well. Even if you want to open a YouTube video on the Internet in China, you have to wait forever. For several months now, the Chinese censorship authorities have also made it difficult to access most Google services. Some days the pages open very slowly, some not at all. Here, too, China's large firewall, the state Internet block, blocks access.

So far, so-called virtual private network connections (VPN) have provided a remedy. This is mostly paid software from abroad, via which an encrypted connection to a foreign server is established. The inquiries to Facebook and Twitter then no longer come via a Chinese, i.e. monitored server, but via one abroad. However, the Chinese censorship authorities have now cut these links as well.

Large commercial VPN providers such as Astrill, Golden Frog and Strong VPN report that many of their servers have been inaccessible from China for a week. IPhone and iPad users in particular complain that they cannot establish a connection to Facebook or Twitter despite having VPN access. The Great Firewall blocks the VPN protocols, the service provider Astrill writes to its customers in China. The Golden Frog service also reports serious disruptions.

Not only foreigners living in China, but especially international journalists use the VPN tunnel services - they are also widespread among the Chinese. The market researchers from GlobalWebIndex assume that the number of VPN users in the People's Republic is over 90 million.

It was technically possible for the Chinese censorship authorities to block VPN access beforehand; In some cases they have done that again and again. But it seemed that the Chinese state had so far had an interest in at least certain groups being able to network internationally. Many universities, companies and even some government agencies were able to use these tunnel services frequently.

But now a different wind seems to be blowing. Chinese state media such as the People's newspaper or the English speaking one Global Times have quoted experts loyal to the state several times in the past few months who warn of “foreign forces”. These “forces” would try to stir up unrest in China via the Internet. The director of telecommunications in the Ministry of Industry and Information, Wen Ku, defended the blockade of foreign tunnel services last week - and admitted for the first time that the state was behind these disruptions. China is blocking VPN access to ensure the "healthy development" of the Internet. But he did not explain what he meant by that.

In addition to the many Chinese who like to communicate with the rest of the world via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, there are also many internationally operating companies affected by the tightening of Internet censorship. The European Chamber of Commerce has repeatedly criticized the restrictions on the business of EU companies in the Middle Kingdom and making the Internet "frustratingly" slow.

The Chinese leadership does not seem to care about this criticism. Wen Ku from the Ministry of Information even believes that the firewall benefited the domestic economy. Many Chinese Internet companies owe their success to this “special regulatory environment”. In fact, large Chinese Internet companies such as Baidu, Tencent, Alibaba and Youku owe their rise to the virtual wall on the Internet. They only found many users in China when Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were no longer accessible to the general public.


Network economy