The China Firewall and VPNs

GFW of chinaThe Great Wall of China is an amazing piece of architecture. It is so monumental that it can even be seen from space. But did you know that there is another wall, an invisible one, which surrounds the entire country? We’re talking about the Great Firewall of China.

Perhaps no other country has pushed the limits of Internet censorship and regulation the way that China has. From blocking websites that violate government standards to imprisoning bloggers for expressing their views, China takes a hard line in controlling digital information.

Getting around the Great Firewall of China is a must for expatriates and those who visit the country. There is a way to circumvent many of the Internet restrictions in China if you are working or traveling there, and that way is to use a VPN.

What is the Great Firewall of China?

The Great Firewall of China actually has a more proper name. It is called the Golden Shield Project. The government began to develop the Golden Shield Project in 1998, and it was fully operational by 2003. Since that time, the Great Firewall of China has been the government’s tool for managing Internet restriction in one of the world’s most powerful nations.

The premise behind the Golden Shield project was simple. The Chinese government believed that the arrival of the Internet “opened a window” to the West, and that controlling what came through that window was important. Deng Xiaoping, the legendary Chinese leader, essentially referred to the process as “swatting flies.”

The flies coming through the open window of the Internet were any voices which could be considered as opposing the Communist principles of China. One such group, known as the China Democracy Party, was gaining some strength as the Internet arrived, and the government worried that unfiltered usage of the Internet would strengthen the CDP’s efforts to network. Hence, the Great Firewall was born.

How the Great Firewall works

Internet filtering through the Great Firewall of China is accomplished through a variety of means. Much blocking is accomplished by preventing some IP addresses from routing through, and proxy servers are heavily used.  In addition, a technique known as DNS cache poisoning is used to restrict access to certain sites.

The end result is that those who use the Internet in China are able to access only what the government wants them to access. All ISP’s in China adhere to the standards imposed by the Golden Shield project.

Why should you care about the Great Firewall?

As of June 2013 there are over 550,000 expatriates working in China. These individuals come from a variety of nations, but the turmoil in the European and American job markets have produced many of these young expatriates who are looking to improve their job status by working in China.

Foreign workers have perennially fueled many industries in China, many of them in the gas, coal, and steel industries. Teachers and other degreed professionals have always been in demand for their ability to introduce new learning and technology to the Chinese population. If you are planning to become an expatriate and work in China, learning how to avoid the Great Firewall is a must.

China is also the third-most visited nation in the world. In 2010, 55.98 million tourists visited the country. China is a favorite of tourists because of its history and culture. It is also a safe country to visit, with little turmoil.

When you combine expatriates with tourists the result is a sizeable foreign presence in China. Many of these individuals depend upon Internet access to stay connected with their home country, but many are surprised when they arrive and are confronted by the Great Firewall of China.

IMPORTANT–You must get a VPN before you reach China!

If you are planning to visit or work in China, a VPN is your only reliable option for maintaining access to the Internet as you have come to enjoy it. You can use your personal VPN to create an encrypted tunnel which will allow continued access to services like Skype, your local news and television programming, and digital services like Netflix or even Amazon Prime.

What you must understand, however, is that you need to secure your VPN account before leaving your home country. China knows that users can circumvent the Great Firewall with a VPN, so access to VPN sites is largely restricted. This means that if you wait until you arrive in China to purchase VPN access you will likely be unable to access our website. If you are in China and accessing this page while on some proxy that is currently unblocked you can email us for an alternative link or you can provide a family member the site url VPNaccounts.com  and they can order for you.

A VPN should be on the list of everyone who plans to visit China. We can help you get yours configured and ready to go before you arrive in the country to work or vacation. Do not forget this important part of your travel preparations!