What is it?
The Great Wall of China was built to protect China from enemy invaders eons ago. Its thousands of miles long and is a monument to the determination of Chinas ancestors in successfully repelling these ancient foes. Fast forward 2000 years and China has entered the digital age, a new wall exists, except this cannot be seen by the visible eye. While China isn’t at war with its neighbouring borders any more they still feel the need to build a wall. It is an invisible wall that protects its citizens from the evils of the western world which has been officially dubbed the ‘Great FireWall of China’. The internet is Chinas biggest invading threat since the Mongolians in the early 13th century.
How did it start?
The internet was introduced to China in 1994. President Deng Xinaoping (The name just rolls off the tongue) decided that China needed to step out of the dark ages and embrace new technology or risk being dominated by its western enemies. He introduced an open door policy which meant they could actually introduce western knowledge and open the country to foreign trade and investment.
As the internet started to progress rapidly the belief was that western ideologies were still evil and corrupt. Xinaoping could not allow his pure and innocent chinese race to be corrupted further so he introduced the beautifully named ‘Golden Shield Project’. It sounds like something from an Avengers film I know. Basically the ‘Golden Shield Project’ was a system put in place so that the internet could be monitored and controlled.
The Internet grew even further, nearly beyond the control of the Golden Shield elite. The advent of social media created a huge boom in internet activity that it meant changes had to be made. Instead of monitoring generalised content, they were were now focusing on spying on individual content. A change of name was in order, so the ‘Golden Shield Project’ became ‘The Great Firewall of China’. This required a heavy amount of surveillance in order to properly monitor and protect the country so then entered the internet police.
The Internet Police are real and they are great in number. Actually the internet police or ‘public opinion analysts’ as they are officially know could populate a country as big as Ireland. By 2013 there was almost 2 million policing public opinion online. This number increased under president Xi Jinpings rule. When he was made president he made sure to put China under even stricter internet regulations. Any outside content or any material that was considered even the slightest bit disrespectful or controversial towards China or its government was heavily censored.
Every mainstream social networking and global sharing sites are banned from China and this includes all of your favourites, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia and Google. However China has more than 300 million of its population active on social media, so what do they use? There are several alternatives available.
RenRen and WeeChat are two alternatives to Facebook and Facebook messenger and they have nearly identical features. Weibo is another option which is similar to Twitter. Baidu is also the alternative to Google as the main search engine. These alternative knock-offs are heavily monitored.
These alternative social media networks shine light on the the oppression of the Chinese society. It is similar to having someone follow you and your friends around and censor you every time you say you say something out of the ordinary. It is denying the public a freedom of speech which in western society is violating human rights. Be grateful next time you browse online that your not engulfed in the flames of the Great FireWall of China.