Embargoes don’t work, to a reasonably accurate approximation. But I can’t help but wonder if an on/off embargo with, say, four and year eight periods wouldn’t work spectacularly well?
Make sure everyone has had the time to get a new phone and fast food preference. Then, send them back into the wilderness.
It’s the “Good President/Bad Evil Idiotic President“ routine, and it might just work, at least at destabilizing the country.
It seems the USA has become an expert on that side of politics. Russia is doing something similar.
When you are in power, and USA, China and Russia are the big fish, you do not need to win wars to be unchallenged, you only need to send others into chaos to continue on top.
Russia and Brexit and other anti European strategies follow this goal. The USA does the same in South America. Will China follow suit in Philippines, Japan, ...? I do not know enough about Asian politics to know the current status.
Maybe in the case of some other countries, who knows. The Cuban dictatorship has its own "internal embargo". The country runs a command economy and none of its enterprises have been too profitable. In a good year, the aggregate's country output is just survival. 2020 and 2021 have been bad years.
The dictatorship have tried to open up to private businesses but they are so scared of the concept that they don't even call it that way. They call it "trabajo por cuenta propia", or "work on your own". To them, it is a huge defeat to even have to admit that much "entrepreneurship". Private business need legal infrastructure. Things like property rights, recognized and well-thought legal persons (ever heard of limited liability?), independent and impartial courts, a sensible tax and levies system, business schools, etc. Cuba has none of that, and far from trying to create that infrastructure, they are working on firewalls to prevent private businesses from being successful.
In practice, the government works on a stubborn principle that communism must be proven better than capitalism at any cost, including at the expense of the people, and thus, it's unacceptable to have a private enterprise thriving where the government-owned equivalent failed.
Even China doesn't call what they have now capitalism but rather "Socialism with Chinese Characteristics" (中国特色社会主义). The trick for Communists is how to open up the economy but not lose power as they did in Europe. These little language games help, I suppose.
It's not enough to get rid of things they don't want you exposed to, it's that societal norms for what is considered normative and taboo have to be strictly controlled.
Some mention (as a commenter below) the fact 'Anyone can access outside withe a VPN! - but to some extent this is not the issue.
It's probably just fine if a small portion of educated people can access Wikipedia. What matters is hard control of the critical mass of citizens.
Admittedly, China would have to shut down specific access in the case of Twitter mobs etc. - they won't allow that 'easily with a VPN' etc..
If the average Chinese remains 'pragmatically loyal to the state' then it's a win.
I think the most powerful part of that strategy is to infuse and conflate the CCP with 'China' itself and with ethnic Han Superiority itself as a defacto subtext.
You can really influence people a lot if you can control most of what they see daily. If the 'Daily Propaganda' is good, i.e. doesn't look totally hypocritical even in the face of facts, then it will work.
Of course it happens in America and other places to greater and lesser extent, but China has taken it to the next level.
I fear that Cuba will not only take China's cue, but literally invite them in to help - and that this will spread.