China Gives Facebook Another Try in Free-Trade Zone
The South China Morning Post, a media company with headquarters in Hong Kong, reported Tuesday morning that the Chinese government made a “landmark decision” to end some of its online restrictions. At the end of September, the ban on Internet access to politically sensitive websites such as social media and American news agencies will be lifted within the Shanghai free-trade zone. Those within the zone will be able to access websites like Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Twitter, and The New York Times.
At first blush, the news may not seem that significant — in many ways, it is just one more step toward the inevitable liberalization of the world’s second-largest economy — but the fact that the ball is rolling is, in and of itself, enormously important for both China and foreign countries, like the United States, that wish to invest or do business there.
For years, the Golden Shield project — the so-called Great Firewall of China — has aggressively censored and monitored Internet communications in China. Besides Facebook and Twitter, other popular sites blocked in mainland China include WordPress, YouTube, DropBox, Ustream.tv, Wikipedia, and pretty much anything pornographic. The telecommunications industry in China is dominated by three massive state-owned enterprises: China Mobile (NYSE:CHL), China Unicom (NYSE:CHU), and China Telecom (NYSE:CHA).