China has blocked Google’s search engine and other main online services from access from within China ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre on Jun. 4, 2014, according to the New York Times. It is still possible, however, for lucky or determined Chinese citizens to avoid the censorship.
A small number of users are able to access the services, in order to allow the government to more plausibly tell citizens that a problem at Google is responsible for limiting access, according to a spokesman for GreatFire.org. The spokesman also called it “by far the biggest attack on Google that’s ever taken place in China.” However, GreatFire is also providing a Google mirror website to allow access to Chinese online users. The mirror site relies on encrypted cloud computing, according to the Times.
“For China to stop our site, they would have to block access for every user or company that hosts with Amazon,” a GreatFire representative told Al Jazeera. “But this would cause severe economic damage, for individual leaders and their families.”
GreatFire.org reports on Chinese internet censorship and has catalogued blocked search terms relating to the anniversary of the violent suppression of the massive 1989 protest for democracy at Tiananmen Square.
Google has faced censorship from Chinese authorities repeatedly in the past, and even threatened to leave the country in 2010, but the company’s desire for access to the world’s largest market and the government’s desire for economic growth have resulted in an uneasy truce.
Recently, large international tech firms have been partnering up with Chinese companies to gain access to the market and bring communications technology developments like cloud computing to the country. Microsoft recently made Office 365 and Azure available in China, both via a partnership with 21Vianet. IBM and Intel have also ventured into the market with domestic players, and Amazon’s China cloud computing region is in development for an imminent launch.
These deals which expand the technical capacity of the country’s businesses also protect GreatFire, but concerns about censorship and related issues of government mistrust continue to influence investment in China. Nearly half of US businesses operating in China expressed concern for data security in a recent study.
The controversy follows on the heels of the first “Reseller Club presents HostingCon” in China, which was held weeks ago.
If US and other foreign hosting companies end up with further hurdles to participation in the Chinese market due to government interference or domestic public relations issues, it could be a good thing for Alibaba. The largest domestic cloud provider, Alibaba has filed documents with the SEC to move towards a 2014 IPO.