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Great Firewall rising: How China wages its war on the Internet (cnn.com)
71 points by JayXon on Oct 27, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 46 comments

Says the BBC, from a country that silently introduced a country-wide firewall of it's own for protecting people from porn, extremists and pedophiles.


"Whoever is without sin among you, let him be the first to cast a stone at her."

I know there are issues in China, but maybe fix our own problems first.

P.S.: I've been to China, and I've seen people using tech even in remote places with a much higher causality for solving language barriers for example, compared to Western nations. Also, they don't give a bit about copyright ideas, so no, internet censorship is definitely not killing innovation there. Slowing it down a littlebit, maybe, but not killing it.

There's a pretty big difference between blocking porn and blocking popular services used for communication by much of the rest of the world.

I don't see a problem with one journalist or media outlet criticizing another country's policies. Given free access to information, people should be able to decide for themselves.

The question is, when will Chinese citizens earn the right to openly criticize their government without fear of being locked up?

"blocking popular services used for communication by much of the rest of the world"

Uhm... Google and Facebook shares more or less the same userbase and that in numbers ( I mean real users, real people ) is comparable to the people in China alone, so 'popular services used for communication by much of the rest of the world' might be a bit of an overstatement.

(We also might just all be much happier without Facebook and less locked-in without Google but that's a private opinion.)

Github is indeed an issue, that really should not be blocked.


As for criticizing the government... the Chinese government had made truly significant changes starting from the 90s. It's a slow progress, yes, and they do sacrifice certain rights of free speech in order to prevent chaos and wars. I believe this change is slowly on it's way, but this takes a really, really long time.

Let me tell a small story here. The company I work for is trying to establish some business in China but so far, they've failed. One of the reasons is that people there doesn't seem to trust reviews online, if it's from unknown origin. Known origin is someone they actually know, and they do trust the word and recommendation of those. This is exactly the environment I was raised in, in Eastern Europe - you don't trust what you don't know.

Believe it or not, this is a certain kind of criticism; questioning everything coming from the authorities. Yes, it is very different from the usual Western approach, and requires a different mindset; a mindset that is trying to avoid conflict and make the best out of the situation without upsetting anyone.

Criticism can happen on various levels, from drawing instigating pictures to a gentle smile, and I would not underestimate the power of the latter either.

I disagree. Granting free speech does not mean war. It means a better economy. China's economy is plateauing. It will not get a major boost from, for example, buying US patents en masse. China needs more homemade innovation. As you say, they will get the best innovation from people they trust. They can get even more of that from people who feel free to think, communicate and express themselves. It's currently easier to do all that outside China than it is within. Therefore the brightest leave and other countries benefit from China's cream of the crop.

There are plenty of examples of other Asian countries which have the same trust issues you mention and also have free speech. They have not descended into war. Their economies have improved. Are there disputes that play out on TV and in newspapers? Yes. Are people embarrassed? Yes. Is it the end of the world? No.

1.) Association fallacy (guilt by association) – arguing that because two things share a property they are the same

2.) "Whoever is without sin among you, let him be the first to cast a stone at her." - pretty sure journalism doesn't work that way

3.) you didn't give any proof supporting the fact that innovation isn't being killed in China. Since you live in UK, what Chinese Brand/Product innovation do you see in stores in UK?

1, nope, the statement was that there's internet censorship working in the 'free' internet land as well

2, I was trying to point out that maybe there could have been some articles about the issues in UK/EU as well with similat tones, not stating that this is for our protection.

3, Xiaomi, Oppo and similar, for example has some pretty good stuff on Amazon, and since Amazon is a massive market share in the UK, we can state, you have access, and the products are usually either surprisingly cheaper and/or better than the 'originals'. ( Another example could be the MIUI ROM, which was probably the best ROM for the HTC Desire; also Chinese. )

I can't edit my entry anymore, but please be able to read between the lines.

"protecting people from porn, extremists and pedophiles."

That sounds great, but who decides what falls under extreme? For example, in the eyes of a religion, every other religion can be considered extreme content.


Also: yes, censorship is bad and yes, there should be no such thing, but there are worse things than that.

It wasn't silent, it is optional. You'd have a stronger point if you mentioned the torrent sites that get blocked by court order - these at least go in front of a judge, but they're not optional for the relevant ISPs. (but easy to bypass for users.)

Comparing an optional firewall with Chinese oppression is weird.

Weird? Why would it be? How do you know if something is filtered out by the ISP level filtering in the UK? What prevents them of filtering out anything they consider harmful? How do you know if opt-out is actually working for everything?

No, it's not weird at all. At least China has the spine to admit it.

The British case seems to be a democratic country where a moral panic influenced policies similar to 1970s complaints about "satanic" hard rock?

It is a bit hard to seriously compare that with a dictatorship trying to control the information to the population...

This is the same China whose central government, officially an atheist state, claims authority on deciding who the next Dalai Lama will be reincarnated as - http://time.com/3743742/dalai-lama-china-reincarnation-tibet...

I'd love to hear perspective on this matter from people closer to the source.

Is China's claim on authority at determining who the next "reincarnation" of the Dalai Lama might be any sillier than anyone else's claim of the same?

It is a claim they inherited from the Qing dynasty which legitimizes their territorial claims. The current "reincarnation" process was formalised by the 5th Dalai Lama in agreement with the Manchu Emperor, and its origins are certainly more polotical than theological[0]

Of course Your opinion may differ but I it is no more absurd than the President of the Fifth French Republic receiving the title of the Co-Prince of Andorra alongside a Catholic bishop.[1]

[0]:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dalai_Lama#5th_Dalai_Lama [1]:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Co-Princes_of_Andorra#...

This is simple, Dalai Lama by definition, since the beginning of all Dalai Lamas, is appointed by a central government.

Fun fact: The Tibetan monk system is a grand scheme to reduce minority people fertility so ethics population is not a threat to central empire. Search for 黄教 减丁 if you are interested.

So we have two of them: one "appointed" by US, and one by China. For further enlightenment, meditate about the half zero ༳ in Tibetan unicode.

I searched for 黄教 减丁 but all I see are some random Tiebas. Do you have an authoritative source on this?

Most of my friends here in China just do good without the open internet. Like the article says, for every major blocked application or website, there is a home-grown substitute. People can get the information or the service they need from these substitutes.

I personally find that that the Chinese version of Wikipedia is blocked is annoying.

If the Great Firewall must exist, I'd like it to be more advanced. This way, it can block in a finer granularity. Instead of blocking a whole website, it can block an individual webpage that annoys it.

So where does your friend go to get information about

1.) a list of corrupt officials and what activities they're involved in

2.) the richest 70 members of China’s NPC have a larger combined wealth ($89.8bn in 2011) than that of all 535 members of the US congress?

3.) Tiananmen square

4.) Great Famine

5.) China is insolvent?


People in my village get corrupt information from watching TV, browsing the web, and most importantly from chatting with others, from rumors. They talked about rumors about 100+ billion yuan involved in Zhou Yongkang's corruption. They talked the affairs between previous President Jiang Zemin and singer Song Zuying. They talked about the former propaganda head Li Changchun directed the murder of a policewoman. You see, we can get many knowlege from chattng with each other.

From the daily newspapers,we can get the impression that people in NPC are super riches. But members of NPC are puppet, we don't care that much of their wealth than the wealth of the officials of real powers.

People also get information from blogs and BBS.

Our grandparents went through the great famine, the cultural revolution. If we are curious, they have many stories to tell us. I get many information about that period from grandpa.

1, from their friends, as it has always been the case there. Search for "Heaven is high and the emperor is far away".

2, There was a short period in time, involving 2 World Wars when the super-rich was not that super rich. Before and after, this was always like this in history, everywhere.

3, 4, 5, China is suppressing information, yes; otherwise there were civil wars, and that is not necessarily better. See current Middle East.

Yes, free information is good, but totally free information would first require solving all the other issues; otherwise it leads to fights and wars which nearly never results in any good. History has plenty to tell on that.

"Instead of blocking a whole website, it can block an individual webpage that annoys it."

In order to get enough coverage, the government would need to MITM HTTPS connections by spoofing certificates. They probably control a trust root CA, in which case they could achieve this except for sites that use certificate pinning.

But, would you really put up with your HTTPS traffic being monitored, just to get slightly more internet access?

Except for the 1984 implications, I have to wonder about the trade agreement implications with copying business plans and keeping the users inside the firewall.

There really ought to be lots of clauses about illegal support of national companies over international competition which are applicable? China ought to be really sensitive about trade wars.

Honest question: what is it that Chinese officials fear would happen, if they let their citizens have free access to the internet?

Generally they are afraid they (the CCP) will lose control. That's it.

The censorship blocks alternate opinions from forming around issues everyone knows about - for example everyone knows about the Cultral Revolution in China, but the interpretation of it is strictly controlled by the gov in a way that protects the CCPs legitimacy and Maos legacy.

It also stops news about the broken state of the system ever being revealed. For example corruption - occasionally a corrupt official gets 'outed' on social media and when that happens, the government often has to do something - the official gets sacked or investigated. BUT, it's rare it gets to that state. Now imagine if they had a free press or free internet - they'd have to sack half the government within a week, given the scale of the corruption!

Finally, most of the censorship is also aimed at killing activism before it even starts. Online movements never get off the ground, people never coalesce around an issue, the power of the people is never allowed to gather and grow to rival the power of the state/police/political elites. Censorship often aims to keep people (politically) ignorant, isolated and apathetic.

At the very least it would undermine the leadership's ability to mould Chinese society (culture, thoughts, values) how they see fit.

Have a read of this recent article by the BBC to learn the silly (by our standards) lengths they go to guard the myth/backstory of the President ....


The journalists were amused by the length they were willing to go to precisely craft the creation myth of Xi. The journalists got the impression that all the visitors/pilgrims they saw there were actually security personnel dressed up.

In the west, the thing we value (or should value) above everything else is freedom of political speech and freedom to assemble into political groups. These things allow a country to adapt over time by changing who is in power.

For that reason, the Chinese cannot have those things. The whole point is that the same people must stay in power. So you can chat online all you want about hobbies or celebrities, but nothing about how the system is broken. And forget assembling in small groups in an effort to change things.

The issue here is feedback loops. In the west, closely-knit political groups can "own" the government for periods of time. Once they screw up -- and they all do -- the voters can have new groups come peacefully into power. There's a way to be wrong. The Chinese have a feedback system where change happens inside the party, but it's much more creaky and brittle. Open net access would expose all of that by getting people talking and comparing political systems.

Our Chinese history is full of loops driven by the rise and fall of dynasty,this model hasn't changed for thousands of years.I don't think our party have the will and courage to break this cursed loops. SO PITY.

Public discourse that was not within the control of the government. Not even a particular outcome, as such, but simply a discussion the development and outcome of which was beyond their control.

Chinese spring.

I thought you were being an ass but I googled 'chinese spring' anyways and found out about the Arab Spring. For those who don't know here is an article on it: http://www.cnbc.com/id/100535405

1. Activists and developers are two totally different group of people. CNN is totally wrong in this point.

2. Facebook vs Renren NOT Facebook vs Wechat. Wechat is shit!

3. Most evidences are true.

Is CNN trying to get itself blocked too? They are like the last one (besides Fox News) that aren't.

I'm gonna guess that this article isn't accessible from inside China.

It most definitely is accessible. I'm not running a VPN.

Trust me CNN, it is hardly different from how we wage a war on the Internet (CISA, CISPA, TPP and what not). Do you not use that ton of cruft on your site with similar designs?

CISA, CISPA and the TPP aren't sending RSTs to connections they don't like, nor actively trying to negotiate with Tor endpoints so they can be blocked. They're also not rewriting Baidu to attack GitHub (yet).

Oh, I forgot to mention the NSA did I? Or let us talk about it's "fundamentally different" because it is always China behind all the wrongdoings against the Internet, my friends.

But wait, keep the mechanics/micro aside. Tell me is there a difference in policy or what either systems want to achieve?


Okay, I'll even temporarily agree with you that the NSA is tapping and capturing traffic. They may even run Tor endpoints purely for analysis purposes. They're still not disconnecting people and then kicking in doors.

It is different - US is chasing monetarily goals mostly and NSA want to read everything. Chinese are trying to prevent thought crimes and political discourse.

Although there are few isolated cases where DMCA was abused to stifle discourse, they are far and between.

I think it's also partly monetary in China. For example, Baidu is thrilled that Google is blocked.

> "Want to read everything"?

How is NSA wanting to read everything (if they don't already) any different from Chinese authorities reading everything?

Different my foot.

Looking at the quality of discussion here it seems we're living in that dumbfuck's paradise. For they say: when you are dead, you do not know you are dead. It's only painful and difficult for others. The same applies when you are stupid.

There is little difference in intent, monetary pursuit, lust of power, size of investment and scale of techniques used by either centre of powers. For exactly the same purpose.

The Chinese authorities are preventing their citizens from reading things they find counter to their aims. You don't have to create this false equivalence to find both actions undesirable.

The US tends to more of an Orwell (monitor) and Huxley (distract) approach to control rather than heavy handed blocking. But then, they have more experience in propaganda than the Chinese.

Trust me, it is fundamentally different.

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