The Internet and China: Less is More?

18:24 (UTC+08:00), 16 JUL 2014 | CHN BEIJING

If you thought China was fully in control and regulating things these days (apparently they completely canned Line), this might only be the tip of the iceberg for you. Presently, the firewall operates on a blacklist (liste noire) principle, in essence containing a list of sites you’re not allowed to go to, and then not restricting access to the rest. (The same goes for keywords, especially those in search machines.) Incredibly, though, as long as you stay away from the two Ps — politics and porn — you should be fine.


Because whilst I was just browsing around on my hard drive as of late, I came across this presentation I did in my first PhD year. It really was a scary moment. We were not yet three or four months into the whole thing and yet the Jing was indeed thinking of replacing the blacklist with a whitelist (liste blanche).

DF presentation CHN liste blanche

There’s nothing innocent about the whitelist. Today you’re lucky to access much of the BBC in China because most of the site’s not being listed in the blacklist. If the BBC didn’t get on the official whitelist (given most Chinese can’t watch the BBC in China, I’d have to wish Auntie Beeb seriously good luck here), then if a whitelist system was in force, you couldn’t access the BBC at all in China.

Not accessing news and classic BBC comedies is the least of your concerns, apparently, should they have instituted a whitelist: this entire blog (as well as all of our “minor league blogs”) would also become inaccessible inside China. Don’t tell me this hasn’t been tried yet: Apple tried with KidSafe, and it joined everyone in that Great iTools in the Sky, ultimately not working at all (in the very end, Apple simply integrated it into the system software, but the KidSafe method didn’t work out at the end of the day).

This was not popular at all, with even local media taking a rather critical look at the idea. Five years after this, it no longer appears to be an active, serious threat, but then again, as is the case with a fair bit of things this part of the world — will one ever know?