In efforts to restructure foreign business relations, Beijing has finally decided to allow Internet access with no censorship within a free-trade zone in Shanghai. Such a landmark decision includes access to New York Times, Facebook, and Twitter, which were among the many banned websites. The issue was raised for the purpose of welcoming businesses from foreign countries without limiting their means of business communications.
Foreign visitors often complained that, while staying in the mainland side, continual problems with accessing certain sites made it difficult to study or work. Such problems have proved to ruin the “welcome mat” for visitors planning to live or study abroad.
Not too long ago, Chinese authorities had businesses under pressure to ban websites by going so far as to log all computer traffic with a large selection of websites to block; which also included Google, Facebook, and Twitter, along with cooperation to connect company servers to local authorities.
Authorities in charge of the Shanghai free-trade zone are already seeking interested telecommunication firms to place bids for Internet services, which will also permit competition with foreign firms as well. Such decisions may allow for better economic reform, and if Internet freedom proves to be successful in financial restructure, foreign investment will open, which will undoubtedly create an easier capital flow in foreign exchange.
Last week, Li Ka-shing, Asia’s richest man, said that there will be a significant impact on Hong Kong in the free-trade zone, and with the current lift on Internet censorship within the free-trade zone, the impact will certainly change the economic face of the once restricted area. The lift on Internet censorship will finally lead the nation into the 21st century as no ban, even though it is in a specific zoned area, says much about the changing force in China.
As Beijing prepares to welcome Internet access in the specified free-trade zone, discussions about other blocked web sites loom as many web sites that are not related to social mediums have also been banned, such as web sites that offer travel, appliance repair, clothing repair, etc. – all of which do not facilitate any propaganda or personal rants. Perhaps the lift on Internet censorship will extend to such businesses, which may help small businesses flourish.
Skepticism of Internet freedom is not a surprise among the many in China as there are a great number of blocked Chinese social media web sites, which include the popular blogging platform, Sina Weibo. Sina Weibo is the Chinese version of Twitter and it is as popular in China as Twitter is in the U.S.
As all political web sites have been blocked, some Internet users are able to get around the blocked sites via virtual private networks (VPNs); however, efforts in blocking VPNs have kept authorities busy as access to the Internet is becoming imperative to everyone. One Internet user in China sincerely asked if there really is a Facebook, but with the no censorship in the free-trade zone, it is only a matter of time before all of China will be able to say anything over the Internet.
Written by: Dianna Coudriet