The Chinese Firewall is getting more and more impenetrable. The Chinese Industry & Information Technology Ministry of has formally announced that it will launch a nationwide cleanup operation of all Internet access services spanning a 14-month period. This would also encompass a massive crackdown on VPNs or virtual private networks operating in the country.
Why Is China Cracking Down on VPN?
Important Notice: ExpressVPN
is the only VPN service provider we can confirm is working in Mailand China as of November 2nd, 2017.
The New Regime
New regulations in China stipulate that any VPN service has to take government approval before it starts operations within Chinese limits. No citizen moreover, is permitted to use a VPN service without permission, failing which he stands to be prosecuted and penalized heavily.
Since VPNs make use of encryption for disguising internet traffic that allows Chinese users to bypass its Great Firewall for accessing both restricted and censored websites, the Chinese government has informed its three largest telecom companies to block the access of individuals to them. The deadline has been set for early 2018.
The principal reason behind this is that China doesn’t want its citizens to get information on touchy issues. With censorship intensifying, foreign news agencies, Google, Twitter, and Facebook too, have been blocked. Any blog criticizing the Chinese government cannot be accessed either. This deliberate choking has left Chinese users of the Internet with virtually nothing that the digital world offers.
China’s ever tightening grip on Internet use has already started having its negative repercussions. Apple has already pulled out the app for the New York Times from its App Store in compliance with the new rules that no mobile app should disseminate censored or banned content. VPN apps are also no longer available on the Chinese version of Apple Store.
The Beijing authorities have, moreover, passed a cybersecurity law that requires that service providers must collect all personal information of their users while also preventing any data collected within the country from going out. The Chinese have viewed blacking out VPN services as a “perfectly healthy development” and measures taken recently were for “standardizing and cleaning” Internet access.
The restrictions have targeted service providers who operate without licenses or even illegally and according to senior officials of the Ministry of Industry & Information Technology, all law-abiding businesses and individuals won’t get affected. It has been predicted that WhatsApp too, won’t be spared. Even citizens who were selling VPN software online have been sentenced to 9 months of imprisonment.
Since VPNs offer their services at an average monthly fee of $10, Chinese Internet users stand to lose out on an affordable way to access the web securely. Now corporate customers have been informed that they can use VPNs only to connect with their company’s overseas offices.
Is Blocking VPN Feasible?
However, it is also generally perceived that humans like overcoming challenges and the technically savvy will find a bypass route to this obstacle. Moreover, the government has acknowledged that VPNs can’t be got rid off completely, particularly for businesses but they have to apply for the same and only to approved providers.
The global view on China’s crackdown on VPNs and Internet censorship is that it will be a barrier to international trade. Moreover, such retarding measures would also impose significant costs on vendors and products and services users with whom China does business both nationally and internationally. Research has shown that over 3,000 networking, communications, news and other sites have been blocked, resulting in affecting business worth billions of dollars.
China officially tightened its Internet censorship before the 19th Congress of the Communist Party last fall by passing a law that would make it very hard for foreign business houses to function in the country. This has been compared with Stalin’s regime in Russia during the Cold War where absolute Communist rule dominated the lives of all Russian citizens.
This has been viewed as an absolute breach of privacy by all Chinese citizens, particularly the younger generation that wants to keep abreast of western mores and cultures. Moreover, with personal communication getting affected seriously, the average Chinese citizen feels that he is cut off from the rest of the world, thanks to this totalitarian regime that seeks more to stifle than to rejuvenate.
Personal freedom after all, is the birthright of all human beings and China’s policies in this regard have not been received well by its citizens. George Orwell warned us about this! While its Great Wall sought to protect the country, it’s Great Firewall it seems, aims at retarding it by cutting the country off from contact with the rest of an otherwise barrier-free world.