Matthew Brennan

China’s internet authorities have strengthened the rules on VPN’s – popular tools to jump the country’s online censorship. Nevertheless, getting online with a VPN is still relatively easy, says internet expert Matthew Brennan to The News Lens, but he is not giving a guarantee that will still be the case in one year time.

The News Lens:

There have been many fears that China would tighten its VPN enforcement in the past – with rumors circulating of bans on Jan. 11 and Feb. 1 – but this one is backed up by official statements. The MIIT announcement came less than two weeks after the state-run Global Times denied that a ban was in the works, quoting a “China Telecom staff member.”

WeChat expert and frequent technology commentator Matthew Brennan told The News Lens that these moves should come as no surprise: “The Chinese government’s stance with regard to enforcing sovereignty over its citizens’ use of the internet has been consistent. This will become a game of cat and mouse between an increasingly sophisticated firewall and VPN service providers.”

A ban would be excellent news for the approved VPN providers, who happen to be the three state-run telecom companies, China Telecom, China Unicom and China Mobile, who advertise direct links to the outside world, a service geared towards corporate clients…

While privacy from prying Communist Party eyes has already been compromised, censorship will not be absolute. The restricted use of VPNs and which sites are blocked varies widely depending on location, the level of political tension, and a host of other reasons, and there is no reason to believe that this will change.

As Brennan said, “Right now, it’s still relatively easy for anyone who is determined to do so to jump over the firewall. Whether that’s still the case in a year’s time, we’ll have to wait and see.”

More in the News Lens.

Matthew Brennan is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need him at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch or fill in our speakers’ request form. 

Are you looking for more internet experts at the China Speakers Bureau? Do check out this list.


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