Internet Access and Government Control How have Chinese citizens responded to government censorship of the internet?


Since the mid 1990's, China has been trying to control internet access regularly making new laws that censor more information. The government has been trying to make sure people use their real names for online activities for years, and Beijing also has had pornography, political discussion, and many other types of online content restricted. However, to counter this, there have been activists and developers attemtping to go around the "Great Firewall". The Great Firewall that censors information on the internet covers up information like Tibet or the deadly 1989 crackdown on Tiananmen Square protests. It also blocks Google, Twitter, Facebook, or anything that critisizes the Chinese government.

In 2009, after China blocked Google, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook for national security, the equivalent websites in China, Baidu, Youku, Sina Weibo, and Renren benefited. Wall Street Journal and Foreign Policy believe that the Great Firewall may be to block out competition in the Internet industry so people will use domestic websites instead. The three leading internet companies in China, known as BAT, or Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent succeeded partly because of the Great Firewall, and they are very close to the government, helping to form regulations and seeming like state-owned companies. There are countries besides China that censor and protect from American websites, including some areas in Europe. At times, even US has censored foreign competitors.

New Cybersecurity Laws

Now, China wants to make it more difficult to get around the firewall, and the Ministry of Industry and Information of Technology is going to "clean up" their internet access services for 14 months and make virtual private networks stricter. The Cyberspace Administration of China, created while Xi Jinping was president is in charge of trying to "streamline regulation of the internet" with not only the cybersecurity laws but also more policy steps. Before, VPNs were tolerated because the authorities knew people needed them for their jobs that relied on internet, they no longer are. Now, when people use VPNS, they must have permission, and VPN services have to have been approved by the government. The purpose of the new cybersecurity law is to restrict and control companies more while tracking citizens, and fix legal issues with the internet to balance privacy and security, but it is actually not going to change business interactions very much. Because a lot of these rules are already in effect but not structured, and other parts are vague, they can be decided while the law is in motion, there needs to be follow up laws or different interpretations to make the basic laws more specific.

The minister of the China's Cyberspace Administration (second from right) and other officials are at the Light of the Internet Expo.

Reactions to CybersecuRity Laws

Businesses think that the new laws will make it more expensive or even impossible to have foreign operations when people need security checks or in-country data storage. For example, the chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, Jammes Zimmerman thinks that China is risking isolating their technology from other parts of the world and the security is not benefiting. Some parts of the law like requiring people to use their real names to register for instant messaging services are concerning the Human Rights Watch. They stated that China already had a censored internet with he Great Firewall, and citizens need more freedom. However, China did not make any meaningful changes to the law even when international corporates and rights advocates showed their concern for over a year until the second draft of the law. Because, of the rights advocates and corporations, the second draft of the law ensured that foreign businesses only needed to keep important businesses data that was about Chinese consumers or that was consumed within China instead of all their data inside China.

Impact of Cybersecurity Laws

The government has interfered with many careers/lives by stopping the use of VPNS, or virtual private networks that wllow people in China to access the internet, including astronomers in China that need information from other areas that they would be able to access from the internet, graphic designers that need images/clip art from Shutterstock, and even students that are applying to American universities online. Many people in China, especially those who do not know foreign languages are okay with the new laws, but Beijing is counting on those who need internet access to innovate the new economies, which they cannot do without resources the internet provides. Academics, scientists, historians, professors, and even film critics are angry about the new cybersecurity laws, saying that China promotes these jobs for a better future, but are stripping them of their connections with the rest of the world by adding numerous limitations to the Chinese internet. One woman named Jing Yuechen, a person who founded an internet start-up in China, is okay with the structure of the Communist Party, but does not agree with all of the cyberpolice banning her from using a free internet. Another named Ms. Jing says "If it was legal to protest and throw rotten eggs on the street, I'd definitely be up for that." Even commerce is being affected by the control over the internet, as it has slowed. James Zimmerman, believes that it is important for the government to realize the importance using the internet to share information and ideas in order to grow businesses and development. It is possible that people who have jobs that depend on the internet will leave China, as there are already issues with air pollution and political dessent, and removing VPNs could be the thing to "push them over the edge".


The issue of China restricting internet use reflects both legalism and Communism. Communism is a as system made by Karl Marx where "all means of production are owned in common", and there is one paty that controls both political and economic systems. In this case, President Xi Jinping and the rest of the Cyberspace Administration of China are controlling censorship of the internet, even ridding of VPN's. They are making sure everybody has a "common internet", and specific people cannot do valued jobs because they no longer have the resources. Although people might still agree with the values of Communinism, some think that the cybersecurity laws are frustrating. Legalism is a system enforced by Hanfei that emphasized strict laws, and a system of reward and punishment. Although this issue has no system of reward and punishment, internet use is very strict and everything is sorted through or blocked by the government, reflecting some values of Leglism.


The issue of the new cybersecuirty laws a very important because although in America, we do not question having a free internet where we can use whatever resources we need, in China there are people who cannot continue doing their jobs/obtaining information because of the strict censorship. Very important political and economic information is being hidden from citizens of China, and even other countries.

Questions prompted by research

  • Ms. Jing said it is not legal to protest against internet control in China, but has anybody defied this and protested anyway?
  • How many people have left China with a main reason being the restricted internet?
  • Is everybody in China aware of the Great Firewall? If not, are other countries doing anything to help them?

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