China places roadblocks on the Internet


February 9, 1996
Web posted at: 11:50 p.m. EST (0450 GMT)

From Correspondent Andrea Koppel

BEIJING, China (CNN) -- China's government has slapped a series of new regulations that control content and restrict access to the World Wide Web, making roaming the Internet difficult for its people. What's more, Chinese businesses will no longer be permitted to electronically import financial news from abroad.

Effective immediately, there is a temporary moratorium on new addresses and a mandate that all users connect through a government ministry.

Why the roadblocks? Some analysts say they believe it's a combination of anxiety and greed.

In the case of the Internet, the fear apparently stems from too much information percolating into the country. But the reason for clamping down on financial wire services is more self-serving, observers say.

Wire services provide banks and stock markets in China with real-time satellite financial information, and observers say some in the state want a piece of the action. In the near future, instead of companies like Reuters or Dow Jones dealing directly with their clients, the government-run news agency will supervise distribution and content.

James McGregor of Dow Jones & Company Inc. and the American Chamber of Commerce say the government's measures are going to be counter-productive for China's economy. "They think you need control because it (more information) will bring instability," he says. "That is not the case when it comes to business." (128K AIFF sound or 128K WAV sound)

While only the smallest percentage of China's 1.2 billion citizens have access, it's enough to send conservative party elders into a mild tizzy, and rein in access to all this potentially explosive and seditious information.


Until these regulations, anyone with a modem and an address can access electronic mail, files on dissidents, newly released reports by human rights groups, and even pornography.

For one student, the Internet represents freedom -- of sorts. "I feel that it's as if my hands and arms have become really long and my ears are larger," he says. "I can hear a lot of information; I can 'touch' a lot of things. Just by using this mouse and clicking, I can pick all the things that interest me."

Stephen Guerin, who heads Redfish Group-China, says the government is seeking to reverse the "firewall." "They're looking at firewall devices, which are originally designed from keeping people out of a network or a computer system. Instead they are trying to turn that around and filter out the system coming in."

But there are already attempts to thwart the restraints: A black market for Internet addresses is reportedly in place, and there are always computer hackers. In a nation with no dearth of clever minds, cracking the code will be just another challenge.

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