back to article China sidesteps Great Firewall with web roadmap

The Chinese government has issued a white paper laying out current, and future, internet policy - and you might not recognise its view of internet use in that country. There is little talk of the Great Firewall and much of social responsibility and the benefits internet access can bring to citizens, and to government. Although …


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  1. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge

    Is it that bad?

    "Citizens are not allowed to infringe upon state, social and collective interests or the legitimate freedom and rights of other citizens. No organization or individual may utilize telecommunication networks to engage in activities that jeopardize state security, the public interest or the legitimate rights and interests of other people."

    Could be read as:

    "Citizens cannot use the internet to give away state secrets or organise a coup. They may not do things that cause danger to the public, such as encouraging others to blow up a bridge, etc. They may not threaten or otherwise cause harm to others."

    I'm pretty sure all of those things would get you in trouble in pretty much any country. Including those that claim 'free speech'.

    The flip side of free speech is that although you are free to say whatever you like, once you've said it, some stuff might get you in trouble. The example of the guy who was tried in this country for joking about blowing up an airport on twitter springs to mind.

    1. Bumpy Cat

      Good point, but ...

      You're right, in that it *sounds* reasonable, but in practice it's not as accommodating. Look up "Grass-mud horse" or "River crabs" for a good idea of how constrained actual free speech is on Chinese intarwebs.

  2. PerfectBlue

    Bad, not unique

    "Citizens are not allowed to infringe upon state, social and collective interests or the legitimate freedom and rights of other citizens. No organization or individual may utilize telecommunication networks to engage in activities that jeopardize state security, the public interest or the legitimate rights and interests of other people."

    I hate to say this, but 99% of that applies to the US and UK, as well as much of the free world.

    "Gambling, propagating heretical or superstitious ideas, spreading rumours and disrupting social order are also banned."

    Ditto. Quite a lot of this is banned under various laws in much of the free world. Just check out the US laws on internet gambling, and the French anti cult laws. Spreading rumor is blocked under libel/slander laws, and disrupting social order is covered by all sorts of laws, in the all sorts of countries.

    If you try to organize a riot using Facebook, you'll have the FBI knocking on your door.

    It's true that China abuses these laws, but most of them exist in the US and UK, too.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They wrote that?

    As a Chinese governmental position, that just has to be complete bunk, in the same league as the conviction Muhammad Saeed al-Sahha brought forward, or the regular miraculous discoveries North Korea makes in honour of the lonery reader. China is so unbelievably large, and the government even more pervasive, that actually admitting the status quo is a minor miracle in its own right. After all, they love their citizens, every single last one of them, much as Mielke did.

    Then again, it's good to realise that they _are_ large. And not at all a unity, but more like a jumble of a large number of ethnicities and nationalities, all divided by a common written language. Tito perhaps could've picked up a few tricks there. Interesting times, indeed.

  4. Ian Emery Silver badge

    4.3 Trillion Yuan??

    500 Billion Pounds?? I doubt it.

    1. Pete B

      That explains

      Where some of our budget deficit went, anyway.

      1. Martin Owens


        That the money they spent on it just went back into China then isn't it.

        Maybe we can make them cheap plastic junk and convince them to buy it in huge quantities? We'll need a lot of child labour and lax safety regulations to complete with Afghanistan though.

  5. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Down

    Ah, "Freedom of Expression"...

    ... means "Freedom to express things that WE approve of".

    As supported by New Labour, the Australian Government, Iran, North Korea....

  6. Chris Miller

    China vs UK/US

    Those claiming that China's approach to freedom of expression is in any way similar to that of the West are guilty of (at best) extreme naivety. If you posted an identifiable message saying that you think Obama/Cameron/... is a lousy leader and should be replaced*, what do you think would happen? Now, move to China and try the same thing there. If you're lucky, you'll merely get the crap kicked out of you.

    *Note that this is not the same as setting up a Facebook group to mount an armed insurrection, which would be frowned on in most countries.

    1. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge

      Examples please...

      ...or your argument is pure rhetoric.

      Lets not forget the McCarthyist era in the US, where being openly critical of the countries leaders might not get you locked up, but would most likely get you on a list of 'unamericans'.

      Of course China is different. After all, Chinese culture is vastly different from western culture in a number of ways.

      I do think it is hypocritical, however, to label something as bad when another country says it, and okay when we do it. Let he who is without sins, etc. etc.

    2. Chris Miller
      Big Brother


      Thanks for proving my point so eloquently. Here's a (partial) list to get you started:

      But if you can't distinguish between being placed on a blacklist more than half a century ago (when the US was actually being infiltrated by Soviet agents) and being tortured or jailed for seeking a more democratic society, I'm afraid I may not be able to provide further help.

      There are few perfect societies in this imperfect world, but I'm in no doubt under which I would prefer to live. For those who think all are equally bad, well I hear the weather in Pyongyang can be very nice at this time of year.

      1. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge

        True, my example is from the middle of the last century

        However, do you _really_ think that this sort of thing doesn't still go on. These things tend to come out in the wash a significant number of years after they have happened (think state secrets). Certainly with a lot of legislation brought in by the recent Labour government to do with storing and analysing telecommunications, and 'anti-terror' legislation, it would be naïve to think that it doesn't happen.

        I'm sure my name is on a list somewhere for criticising that particular bunch of *expletive deleted*. If I were to apply for a job at, say, GCHQ, then this would almost certainly turn up in any security check done against me. It may, or may not, influence my chances of getting said job, depending probably on which way the wind is blowing politically, and on exactly who I have managed to insult in the civil service.

        We may have greater freedom in criticising what goes on in other countries, and I'm sure that the Chinese don't enjoy a lot of the freedoms that we do. I do, however, think that maybe the picture that is painted of China is somewhat biased, as is the picture painted of our own nation, but in the other direction.

        Finally, I'm certainly not going to try to argue that North Korea is some sort of utopia. You are trying to build a classic straw-man argument by mentioning Pyongyang. Shame on you.

    3. Chris Miller


      "You are trying to build a classic straw-man argument by mentioning Pyongyang."

      Maybe, but I think the situation in Beijing is an awful lot closer to Pyongyang than it is to Washington or London. You are still failing to grasp that there's a difference between your potentially being on a security blacklist that *might* prevent you holding a small number of jobs and being held as a political prisoner (or worse) for many years.

      Feel free to substitute Beijing for Pyongyang if you think it makes any difference to the argument.

  7. Paolo Marini

    same story here

    I agree with Ed and others: that statement doesn't sound much different to what is already in place in most "western" countries and regarding free speech, I can tell you that these "western" countries might have other means of silencing the crowds (or activists, because apparently pacifist is not kosher to use anymore in the media...) but the effect is the same.

    as supporting evidence, there is a recent story in UK of someone venting his frustration on Twitter for an airport closure and he got jail time for that, I repeat: he was sentenced to jail for that!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Big Brother

      Reality Check

      If I vented my frustration on someone (justifiably or not) by punching them in the face, or threatened to explode a bomb in an airport as in your example, I might well risk jail, or be ordered to pay £600 costs, a £385 fine and a £15 victim surcharge as in your example.

      In the UK and the USA for example, bombs at airports are an extremely touchy subject for the authorities. Most people know that and self censor themselves when standing in line for the fifth baggage X-ray in a row etc.

      In many other countries in the world self censorship for self preservation goes way beyond that example and is totally independant of the levels of freedom and rights set out in the countries' constitutions.

    2. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge


      he got a fine and lost his job.

      In China, he may have been made a political prisoner. Who knows? In the US, he may have ended up in Gitmo. They're great things, 'may have's...

  8. Bumpy Cat

    It *is* that bad ...

    Chris Miller makes an excellent point above. I can't believe people are seriously comparing Chinese internet freedom favourably with US/UK freedom.

    I'll be the first to warn of problems in the West:

    - some idiot in UK gov arrested and prosecuted someone for a silly tweet

    - 60 years ago in America freedom of speech was threatened

    There is a vast, vast gulf between these and the treatment of dissidents - many, many dissidents - right now in China.

    To end on a (slightly) funny note - I have two Chinese friends who had to play Warcraft on Taiwanese servers, because the latest patch/update (Lich King) had some content that the mainland censors didn't like. Apparently most of the players on the Taiwanese servers are mainlanders.

  9. Mage Silver badge
    Gates Horns

    The devil is in the detail

    The limits in many ways are no different to many other places. The issue is in how the Authorities interpret a rule/law being broken.

    1. Martin Owens


      In the recourse available.

      It's no good having laws like this if you want appeal your case, let someone know that your being held by the government, be sure you won't be murdered, have a fair trial, have a moral law and fair and appropriately flexible sentencing.

      Even some of our system is not written down, it just makes so much sense to not hit someone over the head before trial.

  10. Someone Else Silver badge

    Yup, You got free speech alright... long as that speech agrees with the political orthodoxy of the time (and place).

    Oh, and a prohibition agains advocating or spreading "heresy". Interesting, as Comunist orthodoxy specifically prohibits religion. How, then can there be heretical speech against something that doesn't officially exist?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    The paper claims: "Chinese citizens fully enjoy freedom of speech on the Internet."

    Yep! So long as you say what we thnk and think what we say!!!

  12. Long Fei


    Strangely enough, most Chinese don't know and don't care about the blocked content on the net.

    They have their own sites which they use, and the vast, vast majority don't even know about the blocked stuff, let alone worry about it!

    Of course, that doesn't mean it's right, but the problem isn't all it's made out to be in the west.

    Still annoying having to use a VPN to access Youtube, facebook and the rest though.

  13. Steve Roper
    Big Brother

    How easy it is

    to be taken in by the oratory of dictatorships. Remember that these papers are written by skilled orators and speechwriters who are past masters at making shit shine. If you want an example, go to the North Korean official website at and read the whole page. It's quite long, but for the full effect don't stint. Isn't the Great Leader a wonderful man with a beautiful altruistic vision for humanity? Now remember what the reality is.

    For all the degeneration of our Western nations into police states, we still have a lot that China doesn't have. We can still criticise our governments and politicians, we can look at porn, we can engage in debates about controversial issues from abortion to zoophilia. I could post in my blog that Kevin Rudd is a lying twat who doesn't keep his election promises and nothing will happen to me except maybe a Labor/Liberal flame war in the comments. If a Chinese citizen posts the same thing about Wen Jiabao he can look forward to a long stint staring at a concrete cell wall.

    *There* is the difference between China and the West, people. We might not be able to organise riots and teach others how to make bombs, but we can say and do a hell of a lot that the Chinese people can't.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    steve roper is spot on

    Having lived in cn for 15 years I confirm what steve says is spot on.

    Most of the above posts are tat from people with no actual experiance of the reality of living inside the great bamboo dictaorship.

    An example of free speach is that if the cn psb knew who I was the reward for making this comment would be visa refused.

    West for the win, cn for a straight jacket and gag.

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