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China has 'no plans' to unblock the foreign Internet anytime soon

By James Walker     Dec 9, 2015 in Internet
China has reiterated its stance on the usage of foreign Internet sites, saying it has "no plans" to enable legal access in the near future. The comments come shortly after a series of high-profile visits to the country by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Some had thought that Zuckerberg's apparently positive relationships with Chinese officials could be a sign that the country may be ready to relax its rules regarding foreign websites. Senior Chinese officials have visited Facebook's offices and President Xi Jinping was asked to choose a name for Zuckerberg's child, an offer he declined.
At a news conference today, Lu Wei, China's lead politician in charge of controlling Internet access, said the company has no plans to unblock foreign news and social websites though. CNN reports that he said: "I can't change you, but I have the right to choose my friends. I indeed have to choose. We don't welcome those who come to China to make money while smearing China."
He claimed China doesn't censor content available online, opting to describe it as regulation similar to that undertaken by most other countries. The blocking of websites including Google, Facebook, Twitter and most Western messaging services means Chinese Internet users rely almost entirely on apps built in the country. Baidu has quickly flourished as an alternative to Google while social network Weibo claims millions of users.
Outsiders generally see China's stringent regulation of Internet access as mass content censorship. The country is known for using the so-called "Great Firewall of China" to prevent its citizens from communicating with the rest of the Internet, giving rise to allegations of the nation's connections actually being a super-sized intranet.
Lu denied these claims, implying the firewall is used to defend the country against potential outside threats. He said "It's like a family who doesn't welcome unfriendly people into their house as guests."
The official indicated Facebook could have a future place in the country in the future though, describing China as "open to all Internet companies in the world" that don't harm China's national or consumer interests.
At least one of those "Internet companies" is now widely expected to return to China next year. Several recent reports have claimed Google is preparing to launch a special "China-friendly" version of the Play Store in 2016, letting the millions of Android users in the country install apps from an official source. Chinese manufacturers tend to bundle their own app stores with their phones when they cannot secure Play Store licenses from Google.
Lu said today that China now has nearly 700 million Internet users and 1.2 billion mobile phone owners. Being able to tap into that audience would give Google a healthy income boost and allow it to better rival Apple, a popular brand with a very healthy presence in China. Google withdrew from the country five years ago after it was alleged the government deliberately broke its Gmail email service to silence an uprising.
More about China, Internet, Censorship, Firewall, Baidu
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