Technology censorship in China

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Censored technology companies in China is a concept that talks about how Chinese government censor the Chinese technology companies and restrict the content they publish on their platforms. Chinese government . Typically, censorship is defined as the suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable or a threat to security.[1] As the rapid development of Internet technology, Chinese government has started to censor more massively and aggressively. The type of censorship varies from companies to companies but they are all done in order to prohibiting Chinese citizens from knowing and spreading information including but not limited to controversial events, reactionary speech, government actions, and violent and pornographic contents. For those companies that do not enter Chinese market or reject the censorship from Chinese government, they were blocked from Chinese Internet. The most notable blocking mechanism is known as “the Great Firewall”, with its name inspired by the historical architecture “the Great Wall”. In recent years, Chinese government is not satisfied with government censorship but requires individual technology companies to establish self-censorship mechanisms. [2]

Response of Censored tech companies


In the face of China's strict Internet regulations, Google adopted a strong attitude of resistance, and finally exit Chinese market to resist the censorship from the Chinese government. On January 12, 2010, Google made a statement titled 'A new approach to China' on its official blog, stating that the company will consider canceling content censorship on [3] Google claimed that its Gmail service was hacked by a "well-planned and targeted" attack from China in mid-December 2009, which resulted in the theft of intellectual property. The hackers focused on the e-mails of Chinese human rights activists [4]. Mercury News reported that, although Google did not specify that the Chinese mainland government was responsible for the attack on the account, according to a person close to Google, Google engineers did trace the hackers to the Chinese government or its agents.[5] On March 23 of the same year, Google China announced that it decided to withdraw from the Chinese market due to "being attacked by Chinese hackers" and "network censorship".[6] Google has redirected its search services from two existing Google China domains ( and to Google Hong Kong ( Its servers in Hong Kong offer a search engine that has not been censored by mainland China.[7]

Apple: Compromise

Under the Chinese government's strict regulation of the Internet, Apple has taken many big compromises to stay in the Chinese market. (1)APPs Apple has made many adjustments to follow Chinese internet regulations. One of these adjustments is removing some apps from its “App Store” in the Chinese version. In 2009, Apple removed apps mentioning the 14th Dalai Lama and Rebiya Kadeer from its App Store in mainland China.[8] Sunshine Weekly, an independent current affairs magazine in Hong Kong, had an existing iPad app in mainland China in the past. Users in the mainland could download and purchase this app free to get some news about Hong Kong. However, in 2013, after Chinese authorities contacted with Apple, asking it to take this app off the “App Store”, the company did subsequently [9] In April 2013, the Daily Telegraph and the financial times reports that in order to "please" the mainland government, the Apple inc. removed an app Bookstore ("经典书城“)from its application market (“App Store”) in China. This app allows and the reader to see 10 books that has been banned by Chinese mainland government. [10] In 2016, Apple removed the New York Times app. The New York Times had been working on several stories about the Chinese government in the weeks leading up to the removal of the app. One, published on Dec. 29, revealed that the Chinese government has given the world's largest iPhone factory billions of dollars in the form of covert special treatment and subsidies. In another article, published on Dec. 22, the Times described an anti-Western Internet video that had been widely promoted by China's public security authorities. [11] (2) VPNs Since 2002, mainland China has used the Great Firewall to strictly censor a large number of websites. In order to get some international news and contact with foreign friends, many netizens use VPNs to circumvent censorship. ( Mozur, Paul. "Apple Removes Apps From China Store That Help Internet Users Evade Censorship". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 16 November 2019. Retrieved from 16 April 2021 </ref> In the fall of 2017, the Communist Party of China (CPC) held its 19th National Congress. In order to strengthen cybersecurity and guarantee the smooth progress of the congress, the Chinese government had undertaken a series of measures. In January 2017, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued the Notice on Clearing up and Regulating the Internet Access Service Market, which stated that without the approval of the competent telecommunications authorities, it is prohibited to create or rent private lines (including VPNs) and other channels to conduct cross-border business activities.( 工信部:清理规范网络接入服务市场 查处无证经营等行为-新华网. [2017-08-01]. (原始内容存档于2017-08-01) According to BBC News, the Chinese government has asked Apple to remove all VPN apps from the Chinese version of its App Store. In order not to be kicked out of China's huge market, Apple complied with the government's demands.(


As a technology company that was founded, developed and prospered in China, Baidu has always been strictly regulated by the internet laws and following the management requirements. On April 7, 2020, Internet information office of Beijing officials pointed out that Baidu APP violated state laws and regulations on Internet and management requirements. Baidu was accused of widely disseminating vulgar pornographic information, intensively releasing "title party" articles, and laxly managing public account registration and content, which had caused serious social problems. In response to these problems, the director of Baidu company said they will temporarily stop updating Baidu APP recommendation channel, picture channel, video channel, financial channel, technology channel since April 8, and shut down illegal accounts to strictly implement the regulations.

Ethical Concerns

Human Rights

Chinese strict regulations of tech companies in China could involve human rights restrictions on Chinese Internet users. There's been a lot of criticism to the Chinese government for forcing Apple to take VPNs off the App Store. On August 4, 2017, David Kaye, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook about this removal. In the letter he said that, in recent years, China's censorship tools and scope of action have been expanded, and individual freedom of expression, access to information, freedom of association and other basic human rights have been restricted. Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag ISSN 0458-3035. Strict regulations impede the exchange of information between China and foreign countries. Thus, these regulations may reduce Chinese people’s efficiency of getting the latest industry information from the world, which is important for economic development. On the other hand, strict restriction on tech companies may encourage the Chinese economic development to some extent. According to a report in the Financial Times, China's crackdown on VPN portals has brought business to state-approved telecom companies. (China's VPN crackdown is about money as much as censorship. 22 January 2018.) The censorship business has opened up new markets for the development of China's economy, and made the old companies glow with new vitality and ushered in the development opportunity. Reuters reports that China's state-owned newspapers have expanded their online censorship operations. The company's net revenue rose 140 percent in 2018, and its Shanghai-listed shares are up 166 percent in 2018.( Censorship pays: China's state newspaper expands lucrative online scrubbing business. Reuters. 28 March 2019.)

Influence on Chinese domestic technology companies

Strict restriction on tech companies may also affect the development of Chinese domestic technology companies.

Local Chinese companies such as Baidu, Tencent and Alibaba, have benefited from the way China has kept international rivals out of the market and encouraged domestic competition, the BBC reported. (Carrie Gracie. Alibaba IPO: Chairman Ma's China 互联网档案馆的存档,存档日期2 July 2019.. BBC. 8 September 2014.) Under the pressure of strict Internet regulations from Chinese government, many world’s biggest tech companies had to leave the Chinese market. The exit of these international tech giants has provided more space and less competition for Chinese tech companies to develop. Baidu is a big beneficiary after Google’s exit from the Chinese market. According to China Business News, a Baidu employee in charge of advertising sales said the company had arranged to contact each Google advertiser one by one and that it had "internally joked that this is a money-picking scheme". Catherine Liang, an analyst at Citigroup Securities, also said in a research note that Baidu could grab most of the market share left behind by Google. ( 股价大涨13% 百度称“幸福来得太快”. 第一财经日报. (原始内容存档于2019-02-04).) On January 13, after Google announced it might pull out of China, its rival, Baidu's shares jumped 13.71 percent on the day, while Google's shares fell about 0.6 percent, MarketWatch reported.( 谷歌考虑退出中国股价微跌 百度大涨13.71%. 网易科技报道. 2010-01-14 [2010-01-14]. (原始内容存档于2010-01-19)) And on March 23, according to the statistics of DoNews, Baidu's share price rose 1.77% on that day, and Google's share price fell 0.45%. Since January 2010, when Google announced it was considering leaving China, Baidu shares have risen 44.5%, while Google shares have fallen nearly 6.5%.( 百度股价大涨 谷歌股价微跌. DoNews. 2010-03-23 [2010-03-23]. (原始内容存档于2010-03-26).)
  1. Oxford Dictionary [ " Definition of Censorship in English by Oxford Dictionaries"], Retrieved on 15 April 2021
  2. Information Control and Self-Censorship in the PRC and the Spread of SARS [1]
  3. Google. "A new approach to China" 13 January 2010. Retrived from 15 April 2021
  4. Yuan Li "Gmails of social activists are invaded", Ming News, 15 January 2010
  5. John Boudreau and Mike Swift "Google cyberattack from China reverberates around the world" Archived from the original on 14 January 2012. Retrived from 16 April 2021
  6. "Google's Statement about Google China" Archived from the original on 29 March 2010. Retrieved from 16 April 2021.
  7. Wikipedia "Google exit China"
  8. Mozur, Paul. "Apple Removes Apps From China Store That Help Internet Users Evade Censorship." The New York Times. Archived from the original 29 June 2017. Retrieved from 16 April 2021
  9. Guoxin Cao "Chinese media criticizing Apple might have something to do with Apple enhancing App regulation" Archived from the original on 30 March 2013. Retrived from 16 April 2021
  10. Lance Whitney "Apple bans Chinese bookstore app over 'illegal content'" Archived from original on 07 April 2013. Retrieved from 16 April 2021
  11. [2]