Newspaper article International New York Times

U.S. Sees Beijing's Control of Internet as a Trade Barrier

Newspaper article International New York Times

U.S. Sees Beijing's Control of Internet as a Trade Barrier

Article excerpt

American officials cite blocked websites and information controls as bad for foreign companies doing business in the vast Chinese market.

China's notorious online controls have long been criticized as censorship by human rights groups, businesses, Chinese Internet users and others.

Now they have earned a new label from the Washington: trade barrier.

United States trade officials have added China's system of Internet filters and blocks -- broadly known as the Great Firewall - - to an annual list of trade impediments for the first time. The list's new entry says that over the past decade, the limits have "posed a significant burden to foreign suppliers, hurting both Internet sites themselves, and users who often depend on them for business."

The move, which isn't likely to have immediate repercussions, speaks to the American government's growing concerns about Chinese Internet regulations and could foreshadow more aggressive actions down the line. It also underscores the opposing visions the world's two largest economies have about how the Internet should work and be managed.

The United States argues against overt censorship and policies that block the flow of data. China has been pushing its own agenda that each state should have the right to control what websites are available within its borders.

The report from the United States Trade Representative's Office said that over the past year the "outright blocking of websites appears to have worsened," saying that eight of the top 25 most trafficked global sites are now blocked in China.

"Much of the blocking appears arbitrary; for example, a major home improvement site in the United States, which would appear wholly innocuous, is typical of sites likely swept up by the Great Firewall."

China blocks some of the biggest corporate names on the Internet, including services offered by Google, Facebook, Twitter and others. That can hobble the ability of foreign companies to do business in China, whether on blocked websites or in workplaces that cannot gain access to Gmail, Google's email service. China also blocks a growing number of foreign media outlets, including the website of The New York Times. …

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