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China on Edge

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China Clamps Down on the Internet

December 28th 2012

Chinese soldier at Tienamen Square

China's official news agency says the government has tightened controls on Internet users by enacting rules requiring them to register their real names. The state Xinhua news agency said lawmakers approved the measures Friday at the closing meeting of a five-day session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. Beijing says the regulation is aimed at protecting the personal information of Web users and cracking down on abuses such as junk e-mail.

However real-name registration will also curtail people's ability to report, often anonymously, corruption and official abuses.

Many Internet users in China have turned to so-called virtual private networks (VPNs) to gain access to websites that are otherwise blocked by China's Internet censorship, but Duncan Clark, a Beijing-based consultant who is also a senior adviser to Stanford University's Graduate School of Business, says Chinese authorities are limiting access to those, too, and that could hurt business.

"On the one hand we have a lot of multi-national companies who depend on, and that includes Chinese multi-nationals who are trying to go global, who depend on access to sites outside and secure ways of exchanging data" he said. "But also we have a number of small to medium size enterprises who use cloud computing or things like Google Drive to access say you know shared accounting or invoicing software, and once that's blocked, of course people have been shifting to these VPNs, but if the VPNs aren't working, then you're out of luck."

Beijing promotes Internet use for business and education but bans material deemed subversive and blocks many Web sites.


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