No, China is NOT Unblocking Facebook in Shanghai
Discrediting the recent South China Morning Post news that Beijing plans to lift Facebook ban within the Shanghai free-trade zone, the People’s Daily reports that the information was “incorrect.” From Tech in Asia:
While the South China Morning Post reportedly has government connections on the mainland, thePeople’s Daily is the mouthpiece of the Communist Party, so if it’s reporting that Facebook isn’t getting unblocked, we’re going to assume that it is correct. That’s a shame for Shanghai natives and aspirational Facebook users in the city, but presumably at this point everyone there is used to life without Facebook (or life with a VPN) anyway. [Source]
Offbeat China looks at Chinese netizens’ reactions to what South China Morning Post claimed as a “landmark decision to lift a ban on internet access within the Shanghai Free-trade Zone to foreign websites.”
“A few decades after the revolution, imperialism is making a comeback with a concession free of the Great Firewall,” commented 五岳散人, a popular liberal voice on Weibo, China’s own Twitter-like micrblogging service.
[...] Nothing better describes the current situation than Confucius’s famous teaching “Inequality rather than want is the cause of trouble.” A small sample of netizens’ comments is more than enough to show how unhappy they are about the decision.
DASTGTGHTUUIJHI bitterly commented: “Preferential policies are called ‘preferential’ because they discriminate against a bigger proportion of the population.”
哀牢古人 , imitating the famous colonial-time sign “Chinese and dogs are not allowed,” mocked: “No free Internet for Chinese and dogs.”
连鹏: “I hope one day Chinese can enjoy the same rights as foreigners in China.” [Source]
While the accuracy of the report is yet to be confirmed, the Global Times explains why having open Internet access within the Shanghai free-trade zone “is nothing that deserves overwhelming attention.”
The firewall on Chinese Internet service should be seen as a precaution that China takes to deal with the complicated cyberspace so that the nation’s security can be guaranteed. This is not a choice based on values but reality.
We should foresee that although the firewall still has vitality, social development and the increase in national confidence will gradually weaken the effect of such a firewall.
The firewall will then become part of the past of the development of China’s Internet.
If the lifting of the firewall can be achieved technologically, then a gradual liberalization of Internet access is not a political issue.
An article in New York Magazine reports that the news of the opening of Facebook may have been a strategic leak by government officials as part of a PR campaign:
[Danwei's Jeremy] Goldkorn, and several others we contacted, noted that the South China Morning Post’s report appears came from unnamed government sources, who may have been trying to spur positive publicity for the free-trade zone’s launch next week. “In order to welcome foreign companies to invest and to let foreigners live and work happily in the free-trade zone, we must think about how we can make them feel like at home,” one source told the paper. But they noted that no official announcement has been made. [Source]