US states that China’s website & VPN Blocking hurts business

china economy

China’s Great Firewall has become just as or even more famous than the physical structure from which it derives its name.

The Great Firewall of China is no longer being used solely to block websites deemed objectionable by the Chinese authorities, but also to ensure that Chinese citizens are not circumventing the filter by using VPN (Virtual Private Network) services. Now, the United States Trade Representative is speaking out about the effect that China’s firewall and the VPN ban is having on businesses as they cannot reach potential customers.

A Tight Grip

Chinese authorities have always taken a very tough line as far as their citizens online rights are concerned. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has always justified the implementation of the Great Firewall as being necessary to prevent illegal online activity, as well as any activities that it deems to be detrimental to the harmony of Chinese society as a whole. Under this umbrella, the CCP has enacted blocks on numerous websites and services, even those that don’t appear to pose any threat at all.

Naturally, the exact scope of the blocking instituted by the CCP remains unknown. There are many thousands of websites affected, and numerous services such as Google and Facebook can’t operate in the country.

Trade Barriers

The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) says that the current CCP policy may have a hugely detrimental effect on international business. This year, the USTR has issued a number of statements regarding the CCP’s efforts to block legitimate websites, often for the purposes of influencing trade decisions by multinational corporations. In fact, the USTR asserts that these measures are causing billions of dollars in damage to US businesses and interests.

Chinese blocks are hurting businesses and services big and small. From app stores to small retailers, and in particular, communications services. Virtually every sector of international business between the US and China has been affected by these restrictions. Some of these businesses are targeted legitimately, but most of them are not.

Collateral Damage

The Chinese Great Firewall is a very advanced and highly effective technological tool. However, despite its capabilities, there are still numerous websites which end up being affected by collateral damage. Often, these websites and services do not contravene Chinese regulations in any way, they simply utilize shared IP hosting and, therefore, end up caught up in other bans.


‘VPN networks are utilized by internet users around the world to improve their anonymity and to circumvent any localized blocking measures which would otherwise prevent them from accessing particular websites and services. Earlier this year, the Chinese government began blocking access to VPNs as a part of its Great Firewall strategy.

As a result, many popular VPN services are no longer accessible from within its borders. For a selection of VPNs that are still operational, see this list. The only VPNs allowed to operate within China must be state-approved. This means that they will be gathering users’ data and making it available to the CCP. This is particularly worrying for foreign businesses.’

China already has a long history of stealing intellectual property from the US. Many businesses who rely on employees connecting to their networks remotely will utilize VPNs to ensure that their communications remain encrypted and unreadable. However, if the VPN in question is approved by CCP, chances are, they will track users’ communications and share all the information with CCP. This presents a serious dilemma for US businesses that are looking to protect their sensitive data. 

However, while US companies might be unhappy about the latest moves from the Chinese government, it is worth remembering that a number of US tech companies have been complicit in the CCPs monitoring. For example, Google recently announced their plans to re-launch in China. The tech titans pulled out of China previously because of concerns over the illegal acquisition of their IPs by Chinese companies. Now, Google is proposing to build a version of its search engine that will be palatable to Chinese authorities.

The United States has a number of long standing grievances with China over its attitude towards intellectual property. The crackdown and centralization of VPN services in the country will only exacerbate this situation. However, while US tech companies remain a part of the problem, and while CCP resolve remains strong, it seems unlikely that anything will change significantly.