If you want to discuss internet censorship, then China will most likely be at the top of your list. The Asian superpower blocks access to 135 of the top 1000 websites including search engine giant Google, the world’s largest social media company Facebook, as well as, Twitter and YouTube, among others.
However, while this content filtering and censorship have produced several benefits to the Chinese government and in some ways local businesses, it has also been a massive hindrance to a world of opportunities including among others, foreign investments in internet services.
But now, China appears to be softening its stance on censorship as it seeks to boost appetite for foreign investment. As part of the ongoing negotiations to end the 2-year long “cold trade war”, the US continues to demand that China completely opens up its internet.
The Asian nation appears to be more inclined to comply based on recent developments than it was a few years ago. As part of the campaign to open up to the world, China has taken some key steps including the latest one, which will allow foreign investment in VPN services.
Foreign VPN Investment in China
Last month, Beijing announced that it will run a trial project that will allow foreign companies to invest in domestically operated VPNs by the close of this year. According to an article published in the South China Morning Post, this move will allow foreign investors to invest in VPNs that will allow users to bypass China’s great firewall. This will allow them to access services from US-based internet giants like Google and Facebook that are currently unavailable in the country.
However, foreign ownership in such investments will be capped at 50% leaving the remaining 50% for locally-based investors. In January this year, the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Commerce stated that the new relaxed stance on internet censorship “is meant to attract foreign telecom operators to come and provide VPN services for foreign-invested companies in Beijing”.
The Bureau is basically expressing a gesture that China is adapting to the requirements of global trade in the modern world by integrating itself into the global system. The problem is that some people are still skeptical of China’s move to open up to the world. In fact, some believe this could be a ploy to make people believe they are secure while browsing the internet in China so that it can collect more data from its citizens.
Can you Trust China’s “Foreign Investment in VPNs” Offer?
Most critics of China’s attempt to open its internet to the world by allowing foreign investment in VPNs point to the 50% local ownership as a potential avenue for the government to continue tracking its people. China is expanding intelligence-gathering overseas and this could be a perfect fit for its grand strategy according to an article published in SC Magazine UK.
For a VPN to be reliable in terms of security and most importantly privacy, the company has to be free of any government interference. With the involvement of the Chinese government in laying down the foundation for foreign VPN investment in China, it is correct to assert that none of these VPNs will be free of government interference. Internet users can find alternatives that are based overseas. For instance, you could check the top ten ranking VPNs online or a list of 5 good choices based on your current location and see if you could utilize the service when in China and other countries where internet censorship is a menace.
In summary, China’s attempt to open its internet to the world appears to be gathering pace following the latest move to allow foreign investment in VPN services. However, as some critics have pointed out, this move could be a ploy to continue to track its people unsuspiciously thereby allowing the government to collect more data.