The Chinese regime is planning another attempt to clamp down on VPN usage after ordering the country’s three biggest Telco’s to block access to Virtual Private Networks by February 2018.
According to a Bloomberg report, China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom, all of which are state-owned have received the guidance along with all other state-controlled telecoms providers. They will have to attempt to block access to all VPN services by the February 1st next year, as well as remove any VPN-related Apps from stores.
VPN use in China
VPNs are commonly used in China to get around the Communist Party’s massive online censorship and surveillance regime, known as the Great Firewall. The Great Firewall blocks access to many of the world’s most popular sites, such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter, as well as any site which refuses to comply with the regime’s censorship programme.
With a VPN, these controls can be bypassed, but it has been clear from recent events, that the current President and Leader of the Communist Party of China, Xi Jinping is keen to shut down loopholes in the Great Firewall as part of his bizarre ‘internet sovereignty’ policy.
It comes hot on the heels of the recent closure of Green VPN, a local VPN service which was forced to close by the regime, and the announcement that VPN users in the city of Chongqing would now face a fine in a scheme which many viewed as a pilot ahead of a nationwide rollout.
VPN ban threatens individual users and businesses
Late last year, the country approved intrusive new cyber-security laws which threatened individual users as well as overseas businesses operating in China.
Indeed, most foreign businesses operating in China make use of VPNs to protect their corporate data from Government snooping as well as to enable them to communicate securely with their headquarters and other overseas offices. It is not yet clear whether corporate VPNs will be impacted by this new ruling, but given other recent regulations, it seems likely.
“VPNs are incredibly important for companies trying to access global services outside of China,” explained Jake Parker, the Vice-President of the US-China Business Council. “In the past, any effort to cut off internal corporate VPNs has been enough to make a company think about closing or reducing operations in China. It’s that big a deal!”
Political motivations behind new VPN ban?
But there are significant political implications too and ahead of the Communist Party’s main political meeting, which only takes place once every five years and will be held at the end of this year, it is clear that the Party wants to strengthen their already vice-like grip on information that may be critical of the regime.
“This is a significantly escalated form of internet control and shows there is unprecedented urgency and desperation at the top of the government,” Xiao Qiang, a University of California, Berkeley professor told the Guardian. “If Xi’s opponents cannot release information inside China because of the censorship apparatus, they do it outside China and then the information filters back. This is clearly about the highest levels of political struggle and the different factions using the internet as their battlefield.”
Best VPNs for China
It is not the first time that China has attempted to block VPN access and, as Netflix has found out after their recent efforts, it is a difficult and usually thankless task. Removing access to VPN websites and apps will make getting a VPN harder, but people will inevitably find a way to access them in a different way. Free information always wins out in the end.
It is nonetheless advisable for Chinese internet users to download a decent VPN now to make sure they have access before the renewed push to block them comes into play.
A recent report has suggested that VyprVPN is currently the fastest VPN available in China, with speeds of 748 kbps and a 99% stability rating. You can read more about their service in our VyprVPN Review 2017.
Another VPN which we have recently tested and which impressed us with its performance in China was VPN.ac. Both offer a fast and reliable service for Chinese users and are guaranteed to be able to get over the Great Firewall. With access to their service potentially about to become a lot harder, we are happy to recommend Chinese internet users start making use of either today.