Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Expansion of China's Great Firewall: Why Now?

In my previous post on who is impacted by the recent expansion of China's Great Firewall, I said I would comment on a key question:  Why the expansion of the Great Firewall now?

I think it's worth keeping in mind several issues which may have been of influence in one way or another:
  • China's National People's Congress just recently concluded.  China has been known to clamp down in the past during this period.
  • Recent events in places such as Egypt have highlighted the role the Internet can play in revolutions -- something the Chinese Government is deeply worried about.
  • A recent upsurge in new Facebook users from China - apparently gaining access through VPNs since Facebook is blocked in China.  Given the role that tools such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc played in the Egyptian and other uprisings the sudden increase of Chinese Facebook users may have caused China concern.
  • Hillary Clinton gave a speech last month about the role the Internet can have in people gaining various freedoms  -- in part highlighting the events in Egypt (see the link for the full text of the speech).  It also mentioned the United States' funding and support for technologies and people working in the fight against "internet repression":
    "We have our ear to the ground, talking to digital activists about where they need help, and our diversified approach means we’re able to adapt the range of threats that they face. We support multiple tools, so if repressive governments figure out how to target one, others are available. And we invest in the cutting edge because we know that repressive governments are constantly innovating their methods of oppression and we intend to stay ahead of them."
    The speech specifically referenced China.  The expansion of the Great Firewall may be a retaliation or a show of might by China -- look what we can easily do against existing technologies.  This wouldn't be the first time a speech by Hillary Clinton had an impact in China.
It's very hard to say if one of these factors may have played a larger role than the others -- but they are all potentially "big" to China.  They also impact understanding another issue: Why were some services which are openly distributed through Chinese web sites either spared or able to adjust without users noticing problems?

I will tackle that in my next post.

[Added note:  "Next post" is here.]

No comments:

Post a Comment