The Washington Post reports: First there was the Berlin Wall. Now there is the Great Firewall of China, not a physical barrier preventing people from leaving, but a virtual one, preventing information harmful to the Communist Party from entering the country.
Just as one fell, so will the other be eventually dismantled, because information, like people, cannot be held back forever.
Or so the argument goes.
But try telling that to Beijing. Far from knocking down the world’s largest system of censorship, China in fact is moving ever more confidently in the opposite direction, strengthening the wall’s legal foundations, closing breaches and reinforcing its control of the Web behind the wall.
Defensive no more about its censorship record, China is trumpeting its vision of “Internet sovereignty” as a model for the world and is moving to make it a legal reality at home. At the same time — confounding Western skeptics — the Internet is nonetheless thriving in China, with nearly 700 million users, putting almost 1 in 4 of the world’s online population behind the Great Firewall.
China is the world’s leader in e-commerce, with digital retail sales volume double that of the United States and accounting for a staggering 40 percent of the global total, according to digital business research company eMarketer. Last year, it also boasted four of the top 10 Internet companies in the world ranked by market capitalization, according to the data website Statista, including e-commerce giant Alibaba, social-media and gaming company Tencent and search specialists Baidu. [Continue reading…]