China, or the People’s Republic of China, is known for their strict government censorship. Media is severely suppressed in China, with television shows, movies, magazines, books, and the internet being profoundly affected.
It’s no surprise then that the Chinese government would eventually target VPNs. And that’s precisely what happened when a VPN ban went into effect March 31st of 2018. Even though many are aware of this broad ban on VPNs, they might not fully understand its purpose and the scope of its power. What does banning VPNs do for the Chinese government, and what does it mean for its citizens?
There are a lot of reasons China, a communist country, would want to ban VPNs. To fully understand the thought behind the decision we must discuss how VPNs can be seen as a threat.
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Why VPNs Are a Threat to China
VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, create a pathway for users to hide their locations and activities online. The purpose of VPNs is to create a safe space for internet users which keeps their data from being tracked, stolen, or shared unfairly. Through the use of VPNs people can bypass location specific website blocks, selective censorship, and data tracking.
This quickly becomes a problem for a country that uses suppression and heavy-handed internet controls to maintain power.
Why is Censorship Bad?
The censorship of the internet is a really dangerous problem. By censoring information and dialogue on topics that you don’t like, you cause intricate moral and social issues never to be discussed. This doesn’t resolve any troubles.
Not discussing a problem doesn’t make it go away, it just makes it faster. This can lead to uprisings or violence based on misinformation or misunderstanding. Censorship also aids in the spread of propaganda which can make sheltered citizens believe lies about the outside world or certain populace.
Historically, we have seen these propaganda techniques lead to significant wars and massacres.
So, what exactly is China’s cause for censoring?
Chinese Censorship and Its Purpose
As we mentioned, China is a communist country. Communism is a political system that functions on the belief that the public owns everything and everyone is equal. Nestled within this political ideology is the theory that there is no need for individual freedom as it is counter to the philosophy that all activities and actions by the individual are intended for the better purpose of the society.
However, there are those who believe that since all people are equal that all people should have a right to individual freedom, especially freedom of speech.
Karl Marx, the father of communism, actually held this dogma. But the Communist Party of China does not. Therefore, when people try to exercise this freedom of speech through article writing, open discussions on social media, or honest expression through video streaming platforms, the government steps in and censors them.
This has resulted in the removal of entire tv stations from their lineups. They have banned YouTube and Twitch in their entirety. Facebook was censored one day after gaining permission to open up a subsidiary in China. Many media outlets are banned in China and there is no explanation provided as government officials can pull articles that discuss the bans.
Where VPNs Come into Play
Virtual Private Networks are just that – private. When you use a VPN there becomes a safe tunnel of information that keeps you secure by allowing you to access servers from all over the world. This safeguarding helps citizens and visitors in China to bypass the government’s censorship. This means they can look beyond the news skewing and opinion repression. All the westernized ideologies that threaten communism, which are typically kept from the site, suddenly become available.
This makes it much more difficult for the Communist Party of China to control citizens through propaganda, misinformation, and strict censorship.
So Chinese Citizens Can’t Use VPNs at All?
This is where the good news begins! The crackdown on VPNs has put a damper on freedom in China, but the ban is not all-encompassing. If you know where to look there are still VPNs that can be used in China to bypass government censorship.
There is research to be done to find the right VPN provider. Many are available in China that are unnecessarily slow, which hampers your internet usage. Once you find the best VPN for China, you can be free from the oppression of a media-censoring government institution.