China has more Internet addicts than most countries have people, and its leadership knows full well the power of the Web. A government white paper in June hailed the Internet as "a crystallization of all human wisdom" but, in typical Beijing speak, reminded the world that "within Chinese territory, the Internet is under the jurisdiction of Chinese sovereignty. The Internet sovereignty of China should be respected and protected." What this alludes to is the vast, often mysterious set of blocks and bans the authoritarian government has imposed, sometimes relaxed and then reimposed on whole swaths of the online world.
Exasperated with censorship, Google pulled its operations out of Beijing earlier this year. Many foreign news sites, like the BBC's Chinese service, are inaccessible, while some search engines are programmed by government mandate to monitor or redirect searches that include sensitive keywords such as democracy orJune 4 (the date of the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989). Surfers with not one subversive bone in their body still run up against censors: sites like Wikipedia, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and even Google Docs are frequently off-limits. Locals and China-based correspondents circumvent this by going through proxy servers, but for an unwitting foreign visitor, having to respect China's Internet sovereignty generally means walking away from your computer in disgust.
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