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The Great Firewall in China just got stronger, and is now keeping out VPNs

Understanding the Great Firewall of China
Image used with permission by copyright holder
The physical version kept out invaders, and the digital version is keeping out the internet — at least, the parts of it that China doesn’t want its citizens to see. The Great Wall served its purpose when it came to protecting the nation’s physical borders, and now, the Great Firewall seems to be doing just as well, though perhaps at greater cost to those within the country. On Sunday, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology published a statement on its website, noting that government officials would begin “cleaning up” China’s version of the internet and cracking down on virtual private networks, or VPNs, that denizens of the web can use to access blocked sites.

China’s practice of blocking certain sites popular in the United States, like Twitter and Facebook, is nothing new, but for quite some time now, folks have been able to find workarounds. Those days, however, seem to be fast drawing to a close. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s administration recently announced a yearlong battle against “unauthorized internet connections,” adding further defenses to the Great Firewall.

This latest move certainly follows China’s most recent trajectory when it comes to exercising control over the web. Over the last few years, the government has continuously tightened its grip on the internet, all to promote what it calls “Internet Sovereignty.” Of course, that sovereignty is meant for government actors, not the people, in this case.

That said, when it comes to cracking down on VPNs, like other rules that China has attempted to implement, it’s unclear how the logistics will actually work. But government officials have been purposefully vague in the past, so this uncertainty isn’t to say that the crackdown won’t happen.

So if you’re planning on visiting China, don’t plan on being able to find your way around the Great Firewall anytime soon. You might as well try to scale the Great Wall.

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Lulu Chang
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