Blockades and IPOs: China's Great Firewall gives its companies an advantage over Western counterparts
China is making it even harder for Western companies to bring their services into the country. The New York Times reports that the Chinese government has "draped a darker shroud over Internet communications in recent weeks" to "tighten internal security," and in doing so it's made it even harder for companies like Google to offer many of their services in the country.
Google's services were all blocked in China in the lead-up to the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests, according to a site focused on censorship in the country, and the Times reports that the blockade has stayed in place ever since. The Chinese government is particularly clever in its efforts to make Google's services unusable -- instead of merely blocking them outright, it sometimes allows searches to go through, creating the illusion that the problem is with Google's services:
The Chinese authorities typically allow a tiny fraction of searches and other Google activities to go through normally each day, with a slightly higher percentage being completed from mobile devices than from other devices. The government even unblocks Google for several hours roughly once a month, before reblocking it.
Because censors permit a trickle of traffic to reach Google’s servers in Hong Kong, many Chinese users keep reloading their Google pages again and again in the hope of getting through. This is creating an impression among many Chinese users, which state-controlled media have done little to dispel, that the problem must lie in shoddy Google service and not in the government’s blocking of most Google activity.
But that doesn't mean that Google is the only search engine prevented from operating in China. Tech in Asia reports that DuckDuckGo, a search engine focused more on "frictionless privacy" than on "frictionless sharing," has also been inaccessible in mainland China since September 4. (DuckDuckGo founder Gabriel Weinberg, who was a guest on our podcast, confirmed with a tweet to Tech in Asia that his service has been blocked in China for a while.)
It's only going to get harder for Western companies to operate in China. The government has even started to support the development of China-specific counterparts to popular software like the Windows operating system. Unless someone starts an "Uber for convincing a country like China to re-open its borders to Western technology companies" -- which could only be called MarcoPolo or DickNixon, obviously -- China's coveted consumers will often be unreachable.
Meanwhile, Chinese companies like Alibaba are going public on the New York Stock Exchange (feel free to insert a "fucking" in there if you're really excited about it not being NASDAQ) and raising more money than any other public offering in the tumultuous history of public offerings. The road between China and the United States, it seems, only allows for travel in one direction.
Nixon would be ashamed.
[image via Shutterstock]