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China Lifts Bans On Social Media, Foreign ISPs In Free Trade Zone 55

hackingbear writes "Beijing has made the landmark decision to lift a ban on internet access within the Shanghai Free-trade Zone to foreign websites considered politically sensitive by the Chinese government, including Facebook, Twitter and newspaper website The New York Times. The new free trade zone would also welcome bids from foreign telecommunications companies for licenses to provide internet services within the new special economic zone to compete with the state-owned China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom; the big three telcos didn't raise complaints as they knew it was a decision endorsed by top Chinese leaders including Premier Li Keqiang, who is keen to make the free-trade zone a key proving ground for significant financial and economic reforms, the sources added. The decision to lift the bans, for now, only applies to the Zone and not elsewhere in China. 'In order to welcome foreign companies to invest and to let foreigners live and work happily in the free-trade zone, we must think about how we can make them feel like at home. If they can't get onto Facebook or read The New York Times, they may naturally wonder how special the free-trade zone is compared with the rest of China,' said one of the government sources who declined to be named due to the highly sensitive nature of the matter."
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China Lifts Bans On Social Media, Foreign ISPs In Free Trade Zone

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  • Keep it coming.
  • by wbr1 ( 2538558 ) on Tuesday September 24, 2013 @01:05PM (#44937873)
    Good ol' US of A has "Free Speech Zones" for certain things.
  • Umm, landmark? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday September 24, 2013 @01:07PM (#44937899) Journal
    Haven't 'free trade zones' always been about the relaxation of certain local restrictions in the interest of attracting commercial activity? And isn't turning a blind eye to the activity of economically useful foreigners (so long as they aren't too tacky about it, and don't start mouthing off about local politics) a downright venerable tradition?

    If anything, this looks like another aspect of China's gradual evolution toward a 'repress smarter, not harder' theory of censorship, where they've gradually relaxed assorted easy-but-grating blanket bans as their technology and techniques have allowed them to get the results they want without as many (upsetting for the user) overt and visible exercises of state power. The most effective controls are the ones you never even notice.
    • It's not good, but it's still better.

      • From the perspective of the convenience of foreign workers(who don't just VPN back to home office anyway) certainly. From the perspective of the state of the Chinese citizen on the internet, nuance might actually be worse:

        Consider the analogy of price discrimination:

        If you have to set a single price for a good that you are selling, you will be forced to lose customers on the low end(because they can't afford it), lose money on the high end(because they'd pay ten times as much; but don't have to) or su
        • by sc0rpi0n ( 63816 )

          And if foreigners use a VPN to access information, you lose all snooping ability. If their connection is not blocked, they will most likely not bother to use a VPN, allowing you to get information on how often they chat with friends, watch cats on Youtube and visit sensitive websites.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I was over there on a business trip, and stayed at one of the top hotels in town. Not sure how they arranged it, but I was able to get to all the sites that I'm told are blocked by the "Great Firewall". Didn't have to bother opening a VPN tunnel back to my office.

    This hotel was part of a famous multi-national chain. Not sure if a Chinese hotel in the same price range would have the same ability.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    China Unicorn. Does it fart rainbows?

  • This is just to facilitate spying. A great way to see who is visiting which sites.
  • The Great Firewall seems inconsistent. Sometimes I was blocked on 3G from visiting Twitter, FB other times not. Wifi was spotty as well, but usually blocked. I used a VPN to access the Internet most of the time. But keeping the VPN up was tricky. Using the Internet in China was absolutely useless as a Westerner trying to get anything done. Such a weird place, they have a maglev train but you can't drink the water. #priorities
  • Endorse communism then we can become communistic too, copornistic is not much different.
  • China simply proves that it is not as bad a Iran in blocking places where anyone can speak against it. While China gives freedom intentionally, Iran did it by error.
  • by Balthisar ( 649688 ) on Tuesday September 24, 2013 @07:50PM (#44942939) Homepage

    A lot of big, western companies — like mine — already provide our own internet infrastructure and have access to the internet at large. All of our employees are free to read the New York Times, American version of Google, or have FaceBook accounts. And if we don't mind going through the company servers for stuff at home, the company VPN works everywhere in China.

    The point of this move in the FA, though, is that China will license private ISP's to provide this service to anyone or company in the free trade zones. *This* would be of great convenience, and I wish I were in this zone. I use China Telecom now and have 50 Mbs fiber service. It's fast as hell and dirt cheap (by American standards), but my connection slows to a crawl as soon as I start routing all of my traffic through a single, private VPN pipe to Germany or California or Sweden.

I've noticed several design suggestions in your code.