Home China’s Cloud Districts Offer Censorship-Free Area – For Foreigners

China’s Cloud Districts Offer Censorship-Free Area – For Foreigners

The city of Chongqing will be the first in China to see the debut of a “cloud district,” or, to give it its official name, an “International Offshore Cloud Computing Special Management District.” This area in an industrial city in the southwest is primarily designed to “gain market share of cloud computing technology.” But users within the district can access the Internet outside of the traditional Chinese censorship regime.

The special district in Chongqing is a reflection of a huge overall investment in cloud computing. According to the People’s Daily, the government is making a $772 million investment in a 93,000-square mile “cloud computing industrial base.”

Because of China’s censorship policies, China’s market share of the burgeoning IT sector is zero,according to Epoch Times.

“The Cloud District’s network will connect directly to the Internet, bypassing the Chinese regime’s firewall; foreign investors will thus be able to carry out offshore data services unfettered by regime’s censorship. But staff have to go through strict security checks to enter the district.”

The fact that the special district will be solely for the use of foreigners, and foreign corporations in particular, is a sore spot for many Chinese.

Some seem angry at their exclusion from a free Internet. Others are outraged by what they see as a new “exclusion zone,” mirroring the delegation of Chinese to servant status in their own country during the Opium Wars of the 19th Century. Still others, like independent journalist Michael Anti, believes the district is a scam.

“The Cloud Computing District is probably a trap,” he said on his Twitter account. “Who dares to store information there?”

The restrictions on direct Internet access even in the cloud district remain draconian. Domestic subsidiaries and branches of international companies will have no access and even the international companies themselves will have to work within restrictions that are not clear. The semi-autonomy of regional bosses also make it difficult for international businesses to be confident of the future. Chongqing’s mayor, Bo Xilai, is frequently described as a neo-Maoist, who has had accusations of corruption leveled at him.

Will Western individuals and companies show willing to upload their information into the “Chinese cloud”? Given the government’s relationship to the Web, not just its censorship but its reputed official hacking, that seems an iffy proposition at best.

Chongqing building photo by David Barrie

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