Health Care Essay Paper on The Great Firewall of China

The Great Firewall of China

Introduction

            The Great firewall of China (abbreviated GFW) is considered the biggest and most sophisticated internet censorship network to have been developed in human’s history. The network has the capability to control and gag all internet connections in China. It works by monitoring specific banned keywords, target IP addresses and URLs, the pattern of connection and network flow and communication data. The GFW cannot only monitor internet connections going out of the country but also those within the country. It is able to repress all of the country’s network traffic including emails, IM messages and website content. In addition, it can block particular web pages (not necessarily the whole website) and record internet users activities for a number of years. The capabilities of GFW include URL filtering, Tor node faking, packet filtering, DNS polluting and filtering, SSL certificate faking, content filtering, IP blocking and network flow analyzing. It can also completely block all external connections and make mainland China’s internet totally independent from the outside (Clayton et al., 2006). This paper will discuss how the GFW works and how it influences China’s ability to achieve economic progress.

How the Great Firewall Works

            The GW works partly by inspecting web traffic to determine if particular prohibited keywords are present. The ruling communist party updates the list of keywords it wants banned since it believes that if the people know more about them, they might cause civil unrest. This list consists of more than five hundred words. The chosen keywords relate to issues such as social groups that the government has prohibited, historical events that it does not wish the public to discuss, and political ideologies that it considers unacceptable. The keyword based blocking occurs within the special routers that manage the connections between mainland China and other countries. The routers use devices that utilize intrusion detection system technology to establish whether the content of internet packets correspond with the government’s filtering guidelines. If it determines that a connection from a user to a web server is to be gagged, the router will inject forged TCP resets into the data streams to make sure that the endpoints abandon the connection (Clayton et al., 2006).

             As long as the blocking has been initiated, it will remain in place for a few minutes until the user gives up. Any further attempts by the user to fetch material from that website will be disallowed through the injection of additional forget resets. A common example is, when a user tries to search something that has been banned on Google, his/her internet connection will be blocked for some minutes. Instead, his/her browser will display a report that it is unable to reach Google’s server. However, this is not the actual case since GFW has simply cut down the connection between Google and the user.

            Apart from installing censoring routers, the Chinese government appointed more than ten agencies to put in force a wide range of internet directives directed towards content and service providers. The roles of these agencies include policing of cybercafés and public computers that continuously monitor for prohibited content. The state requires that all internet service providers obtain an operating license from the Ministry of Information and keep a full record of user activity for two months. This record should be surrendered to the government upon request. Moreover, all China based websites have to be registered or else they would be shut down.

            China has also implemented invasive controls on persons who visit internet cafes. For example, any visitor must show identification before they can be allowed to log on to the computers. These identification records can be handed to state authorities upon request. The country’s Ministry of Public Security also employs thousands of human observers to scrutinize internet content. Moreover, it has an online reporting system where citizens are encouraged to alert the authorities about information that is deemed harmful to the public. To avoid penalties, websites in mainland China carry out self censorship by voluntarily blocking out the prohibited keywords. As such, the country has had major issues with international websites that cannot censor themselves. International websites such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, in which users provide the content have since banned. The Chinese government has since allowed Chinese clones for such popular websites. For example, the Chinese clone version of YouTube is called Youku, that for Facebook is called Renren and Twitter is called Weibo.

How GFW influences China’s ability to achieve economic progress

            Everyday life in economically developed countries has been influenced and transformed by the internet. Nowadays, many people around the world cannot go a day without logging onto the internet. It has become such an essential that some people cannot imagine how the world was before its invention. Over the past decade, the scale of expansion of this system has been remarkable. The advent of social media has played a big part in this expansion. The rate of growth in internet usage and global connectivity as well as the unparalleled proliferations of innovations in software applications and hardware has led to a universal applause. The Internet has become such an important tool that it is considered by many one of the world’s greatest invention. It has come to define a whole generation, with many information technology companies now worth hundreds of billions of dollars even though some were formed about ten years ago. The Internet has a huge impact on social and economic development. Therefore, attempts to censor it will have a negative effect on long term economic progress.

            China has experienced tremendous economic growth in the past thirty years. This is normally attributed to abundance of raw materials, its thriving production industry and cheap labor. Over the past decade, the government been significantly privatized some industries. The country further attracted foreign investors after agreeing to join the World Trade Organization in 2001. In essence, China’s tremendous growth in the past has been facilitated by the government’s economic liberation policies. Therefore, its recent attempts to regulate the economy through internet censorship will affect its ability to sustain its previous economic progress. Presently, the country’s growth has slowed significantly. For instance, in 2007, the country recorded growth of 14%. In 2010, the economic growth had reduced to 10%. It has been slowing since then such that it was 7.4% in 2012. This year it is expected to stabilize at 7.4% (Trading Economics, 2014). It should be noted that the GFW came into prominence at around 2010. This suggests that it might have affected economic progress.

            In the long term, the GFW will negatively affect the country’s ability to achieve meaningful economic progress. China’s tough censorship system has stalled the country’s business growth. In a survey of 300 businesses by the Chamber of Commerce in China, three quarters of them said that unstable internet access had impeded their efficiency. This implies that they had to delay some operations, leading to additional costs, just because they had to withstand the monitoring. In the same survey, around 40% said that the censorship regime negatively affects businesses (Mozur & Tejada, 2013). These results show that the GFW had prevented many businesses from growing as much as they should have had there been no censorship. In any country, investment and trade are essential for economic progress. Therefore, China’s continued censorship will affect its ability to achieve meaningful growth in the long term.

            Presently, many businesses are using cloud computing to enhance their operations since it facilitates faster communication. However, cloud computing cannot be effective in a slow internet network. When it comes to average internet speed, China ranks 94th in the world. Such a speed is a hindrance to cloud computing. Many leading software companies such as Google, Oracle and SAP are now moving to the cloud. This will have negative ramifications for Chinese companies since they would be forced to continue with traditional operations that are more expensive and time consuming. Furthermore, other developed countries are making transitions to information-based economies. This has meant that a fast and reliable connection has become a necessity for many multinational companies. Therefore, China’s slow internet will cause multinationals based in the country to fall behind other companies. This will make some of them to lose their competitiveness. Some may even be forced to shift their headquarters to other countries with faster internet services. For example, IBM has shifted to India as a way of enhancing its operations. If the country does not relax its regulations, business activity will be hindered thereby affecting economic progress.

            China is renowned for its production industry. Over the past decade, the country has become a hub for goods production. Its plentiful goods are sold everywhere in the world. As a result, export of Chinese goods has become an essential revenue generator. However, the country has lagged behind when it comes to exportation of services. In fact, China records huge deficits in service trade. For example, in 2012, it exported $190 billion worth of commercial services whereas it imported $281 in services. This corresponds to a deficit of $91 billion. In retrospect, the country recorded a positive balance of trade of about $300 for that year (Trading Economics, 2014). This implies that it overly depends on export goods to balance its foreign trade. Internet censorship has a greater impact on service provision than good production. Consequently, the GFW has negatively affected the service industry in China. Hence, as long as it continues to be implemented, China’s capability to develop this industry will be diminished.

            Research and development, innovation and entrepreneurship have become vital tools for economic growth. The United States has consolidated its position as an economic superpower due to its ability to develop innovative products and services. Its relatively free information space has encouraged entrepreneurial activities since people and businesses can easily access and share information. In the long term, this is beneficial to the economy. On the other hand, China cannot continue to depend mainly on good production. This is because as the rate of wages continues to rise, the country’s low cost advantage might be lost. In the past, many international companies carried out their production in China because of its low wages and associated low production costs. However, this will change in the near future as many countries revise their minimum wages and as the international community continues to raise awareness of human rights violations in its sweatshops.

            For China to become a true advanced economy, it is essential that it promote local high tech industries so that they can become global powers. However, it cannot do so when information cannot flow freely. Its businessmen, students and scientists need to know everything that the rest of the world is doing if they are to know the latest trends and get fresh ideas. In order for them to come up with products that would revolutionize the globe, these innovators need to connect to how other people in the world are living. Currently, this is not possible in China since they cannot access all the information they need (Schuman, 2011).

The predicament of US Companies in China

            A number of US information companies have since established their operations in China. The GFW has presented such companies with a major business dilemma since they are torn between following the internet guidelines of the country and the ideology of free information for all. In the United States, such companies have no such issues since they have a free space to write what they want. However, they do not have such freedom in China. Two of the companies that have been faced with this predicament that AltaVista and Yahoo Inc. AltaVista was banned by the Chinese government since it refused to screen its content. The company’s CEO intimated that censorship was not attuned to his vision of free access to information. Meanwhile, Yahoo Inc pledged to censor itself to satisfy the demands of the authorities.

            Personally, I support AltaVista’s position on this matter. In the current information age, it is vital that everyone is given an opportunity to access information that will improve his/her life. The ruling party is simply focused on retaining power for as long as possible. This is a selfish move that has denied the Chinese people a vital right to information. Even though companies such as Yahoo Inc may believe that they will increase their revenues by following censorship guidelines, this may hurt their overall reputation such that many people outside China (who believe in the right to knowledge) will seek the services of other companies. In the long term, this move may be counterproductive. On the other hand, AltaVista has enhanced its reputation by refusing to bow down to an authoritative regime.

Conclusion

            The Great Firewall of China is a political maneuver that has affected China’s ability to attain meaningful economic progress. Even though the country has been recording remarkable economic growth over the past decade, the censorship regime has slowed down this growth. In fact, the growth could not be maintained once the GFW came into prominence in the recent past. For the country to truly make the leap into a developed economic power, it needs to bolster innovation by allowing its people to access all the information they need.

References

Clayton, R., Murdoch, S. J., & Watson, R. N. (2006). Ignoring the great firewall of china. In Privacy Enhancing Technologies (pp. 20-35). Springer Berlin Heidelberg.

Mozur, P. & Tejada, C. (2013). China’s ‘Wall’ Hits Business. Retrieved 1 July 2014 from http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323926104578277511385052752?mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424127887323926104578277511385052752.html

Schuman, M. (2011). Can China’s economy thrive with a censored Internet? Retrieved 1 July 2014 from http://business.time.com/2011/10/26/can-chinas-economy-thrive-with-a-censored-internet/

Trading Economics. China balance of Trade. Retrieved 30 June 2014 from http://www.tradingeconomics.com/china/balance-of-trade