The Door Is Closed, but Not Locked: China's VPN Policy
Cha, Victor D
This paper attempts to explain why China still allow some people to use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to bypass China’s heavily guarded Internet content censorship system, despite the assumption that the free flow of information can bring regime instability and collective political action. After excluding two alternative explanations, technological capability and political attitude, I argue that the use of VPNs in China is a result of a deliberate government policy of keeping a partially open Internet. Furthermore, a partially open Internet can, in fact, award the government by providing the Chinese Communist Party with the intended regime legitimacy. More specifically, a selective VPNs enforcement mechanism minimizes the political damage while optimizing China’s economic performance, maximizing its external propaganda and soft power, and rallying domestic nationalist support.
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