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U.S. and China Bicker Over China's 'Great Firewall'

By - Source: Reuters | B 32 comments

They'll probably find common ground in their support for obscenely wealthy oligarchies.

As China increasingly develops into a burgeoning economic superpower, many of the Chinese government's idiosyncrasies, like political restrictions, artificially devalued currency and abysmal working conditions, have been politely ignored. Which is why it's newsworthy when America finds a reason to be mad at China. It seems the U.S. Government wants China to relax their so-called 'Great Firewall', the notoriously restrictive system of surveillance and censorship officially known as The Golden Shield Project that strictly limits Chinese citizens' activity online. But if you're hoping the U.S. is striking a blow for free speech in Asia, think again - the issue at hand is how the Golden Shield appears to block U.S. companies from doing business with Chinese customers.

On Monday, Michael Punke, U.S. Ambassador to the World Trade Organization sent a letter, obtained by Reuters,  to China's WTO representative severely criticizing the firewall. Stating that, thanks to the 'Great Firewall', American and other non-Chinese businesses faced "challenges offering their services to Chinese customers", he suggested that China may possibly be in violation of WTO rules regarding transparency. Among the questions posed in his letter, he asked What are the guidelines and criteria for blocking access to foreign websites? How often are these guidelines and criteria changed or published? Where are these guidelines published? Are they made public in advance of their implementation?" In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said "We are willing to work with countries and communicate with them on the development of the Internet and to work together to promote the sound development of the Internet, but we do not accept using the excuse of 'Internet freedom' to interfere in other countries' internal practices."

The interesting thing is that The Golden Shield, using a combination of IP blocking, packet and URL filtering, DNS redirection and connection resetting, strictly limits access to controversial information the government doesn't want publicized. This includes anything mentioning free speech, the Tiananmen Square massacre, Tibetan freedom and other sensitive topics and prevents, among other things, the Chinese language versions of the BBC and Voice of America as well as Twitter and Facebook. While the American complaint doesn't mention specific companies, it's unlikely that a lack of social media penetration is at issue. However, China also has extremely strong protectionist regulations designed to favor Chinese companies over foreign ones. For instance, while most modern video game consoles are manufactured in China, the iQue console, a joint venture between Chinese investors and Nintendo, is the only foreign console allowed to be sold to Chinese customers.

The real issue at hand isn't Chinese restrictions on net freedom, but their tariffs. Punke's even took pains to emphasize that the U.S. was not going after China's restrictions on Free Speech. But the issue of free speech plays better in the media than denied profits, and a challenge to the Great Firewall rather than to China's protectionist policies nicely conflates the two issues.

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  • 22 Hide
    stereopsis , October 20, 2011 11:42 PM
    Whether at home or abroad, the US doesn't care about the lack of free speech as long as it doesn't interfere with their bottom line.
  • 18 Hide
    xerroz , October 20, 2011 11:50 PM
    To me it sounds more like greedy US corporations wanting profits from that slice of the pie and nothing else. Nowadays people could give a crap what happens in other countries, they might pretend they do and will say they do but in reality they could care less.
  • 16 Hide
    elbert , October 20, 2011 11:55 PM
    Unfair trade practices for this long and US just sends letter. LOL Block trading so company's will have to reopen many production plants here.
Other Comments
  • 2 Hide
    kalogagatya , October 20, 2011 11:01 PM
    Freedom of speech and China Bicker Over China's 'Great Firewall'

    much better now.
  • 22 Hide
    stereopsis , October 20, 2011 11:42 PM
    Whether at home or abroad, the US doesn't care about the lack of free speech as long as it doesn't interfere with their bottom line.
  • 18 Hide
    xerroz , October 20, 2011 11:50 PM
    To me it sounds more like greedy US corporations wanting profits from that slice of the pie and nothing else. Nowadays people could give a crap what happens in other countries, they might pretend they do and will say they do but in reality they could care less.
  • 16 Hide
    elbert , October 20, 2011 11:55 PM
    Unfair trade practices for this long and US just sends letter. LOL Block trading so company's will have to reopen many production plants here.
  • -2 Hide
    CKKwan , October 21, 2011 12:09 AM
    China has a Greate Firewall, but US has the longest embargo list in the world!
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , October 21, 2011 12:16 AM
    For game consoles, Chinese have a lot of other channels getting PS3/Wii/Xbox.
  • 9 Hide
    11796pcs , October 21, 2011 12:25 AM
    CKKwanChina has a Greate Firewall, but US has the longest embargo list in the world!

    Explain to me why you would want to buy something from North Korea, Myanmar or Somolia please? Sure we have 11 embargoes but they're all on stupid corrupt places.
  • 1 Hide
    slabbo , October 21, 2011 12:26 AM
    "but we do not accept using the excuse of 'Internet freedom' to interfere in other countries' internal practices."

    LOL someone just got schooled!
  • 3 Hide
    andy5174 , October 21, 2011 12:50 AM
    xerrozTo me it sounds more like greedy US corporations wanting profits from that slice of the pie and nothing else. Nowadays people could give a crap what happens in other countries, they might pretend they do and will say they do but in reality they could care less.

    +1 There are two more examples showing how hypocritical the U.S. is.

    One is the war against Iraq. According to the U.S., they fought for the peace of Middle East, but in fact, they just want to have a tighter grip on the oil market. In addition, although as a country with most (both nuclear and non-nuclear) weapons, they still punished Saddam Hussein for holding weapons of MASS DESTRUCTION in Iraq.

    Another is regarding the China-Taiwan issue. If the U.S. were really concerned about Taiwanese's safety, why would they sell Taiwan extremely outdated weapons and fighters at insanely high price instead of advanced ones with merely what those cost? Just watch and see if the U.S. would take any USEFUL action when China intrude Taiwan with the slogan "Saving our Taiwanese fellows from poverty and starvation".

    It doesn't bother me if you U.S. strive for your own interests. Which country doesn't?! However, not with the flag of JUSTICE. It will just make others sick of you!
  • 1 Hide
    livebriand , October 21, 2011 2:06 AM
    Well, at least there's TOR.
  • 2 Hide
    pclee , October 21, 2011 2:19 AM
    "the iQue console, a joint venture between Chinese investors and Nintendo, is the only foreign console allowed to be sold to Chinese customers."

    That is sooooooo not true! I can go down the street and get a Xbox 360 from a video game store that does nothing to hide the fact that it is a video game store selling this product. The also sell PS3, PSP, DS, Wii, etc.
  • 4 Hide
    orac4prez , October 21, 2011 3:45 AM
    Its about time the US acted. China has chosen a very asymmetric approach to trade. There have been numerous times when companies have had a long term contract to supply minerals (for example) and when the contractual price is lower than the spot price they are happy to pay, but when the terms are not favorable to them they refuse. I think they are currently stockpiling some minerals to drive down prices. They are trying to restrict trade in rare earth minerals and through state owned companies are trying to buy up foreign mines, etc. They are used in LCDs and smart phones.

    China has been the beneficiary of literally trillions in aid, not only from the US but also from Europe. The Chinese miracle would never have been possible without Nixon and the massive tech transfer that followed. How many billions were invested in Chinese factories? They have had access to markets by virtue of large corporations investing there. These corporations have provided massive amounts of training to staff in modern manufacturing, quality control (not that they have mastered it), consumer marketting, knowledge about interfacing IT with consumer products. And apart from the legal tech transfer, think of the trillions in lost research that has resulted from intellectual piracy. The list goes on.

    There have been corporate executives (eg former Chinese nationals (or progeny thereof) of western countries) who have been charged with industrial espionage and yet the courts are closed and no diplomatic legal representation is possible. They cry poor about the need for green technology and have an abysmal environmental record. They will use the technology to sell to the west, but it will be "too expensive" for them and will probably expect aid to implement it there! With the current incompetent governments around the world, we'll probably get those bills too!


    Do you really think China will help America? Once they have extracted everything they want or can get, they will abandon the US dollar (they are already doing it) Chances are that even now China will not open its markets. What would they loose? Perhaps in a few years they will open large sock factories in the south and export low tech jobs there at the current Chinese rate. In Australia, the Chinese have opened a small factory, producing "Australian made" goods with heap chinese only labour at chinese pay rates.

    The chinese have most of your technology, they are exporting massive amount of chemical pollution via the upper atmospheric slipstream to you and have your government on its knees. I hope you guys are learning Chinglish, because you'll soon be needing it!
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , October 21, 2011 4:29 AM
    US talking free trade. What a joke. With their protectionist policies for corn/grain/sugar etc etc they artificially keep all their agricultural industries strong. They're as bad as the Eurpoeans with their sugar subsidies. People paid for crops to be stored because of overdemand.
  • 0 Hide
    PreferLinux , October 21, 2011 4:40 AM
    I hope you have permission to abuse the Firefox logo in such a way???
  • 0 Hide
    andy5174 , October 21, 2011 4:53 AM
    PreferLinuxI hope you have permission to abuse the Firefox logo in such a way???

    Lawsuit in 3.... 2... 1.. GO!
  • 7 Hide
    ThisIsMe , October 21, 2011 5:43 AM
    I say we just unplug the cables going into China. Then they won't need their firewall.

    ...just sayin'
  • 4 Hide
    ukee1593 , October 21, 2011 5:53 AM
    If US industries are protectionist, why does the majority of manufacturing for US companies occur overseas (ESP. in China), EVEN WHEN the US has over 9% unemployment.

    While I think that China is mainly to blame for this due to their currency devaluing, I have to agree that the main cause of the US's problems is due to their own VERY greedy companies. For example, Apple could manufacture ALL of their products in the US and still make a HUGE profit on every device sold. Why do they use Chinese manufacturing; Because they are greedy.

    And I think you'll find that EVERY American and Chinese individual would agree that the problem lies with the companies.

    On a similar note, Just as much as the company is to blame, so is the individual consumer. They don't see "made in China" or "made in USA" on their products. They just see that one is cheaper than the other, and buy the cheapest. So any company which DOES want to keep their manufacturing local will lose money as they cannot compete with foreign goods.

    So. in the end the US consumer has brought this on themselves. If you don't buy locally made products, then don't expect to have a job either.
  • 3 Hide
    maxiim , October 21, 2011 6:30 AM
    This is pretty stupid seeing how our own government is trying to strip us of our basic rights.
  • 3 Hide
    JonnyDough , October 21, 2011 7:28 AM
    pclee"the iQue console, a joint venture between Chinese investors and Nintendo, is the only foreign console allowed to be sold to Chinese customers."That is sooooooo not true! I can go down the street and get a Xbox 360 from a video game store that does nothing to hide the fact that it is a video game store selling this product. The also sell PS3, PSP, DS, Wii, etc.


    If indeed you are from China and not just Chinese speaking about buying an XBox here in America...you should probably realize two things about your country:

    1) It's big. Really big. A lot of government stipulation is regional, dependant upon what group of Chinese you are, educational levels, etc. Obviously those who are educated and well informed cannot be controlled as easily. In poorer uneducated places your government has a tighter grip.

    2) The reason you don't know this is because of propaganda and media control.
  • 1 Hide
    nikorr , October 21, 2011 1:03 PM
    China wants a large piece of the american pie.
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