Netizens Reflect After China Blocks Gmail

At the New York Times, Edward Wong and Kiki Zhao report that the Chinese government has blocked third-party access to Google’s Gmail, a method used by many in China to more reliably access the email service:

The blocking began last Friday and has ignited anger and frustration among many Internet users in China. Data from shows traffic to Gmail dropping to zero from Chinese servers.

The new step in blocking Gmail has consequences that go well beyond making it difficult for users to access personal emails. Some use Gmail as their corporate email service, for example. Now, the companies will have to ensure that their employees havesoftware known as , or virtual private networks, to access Gmail.

[…] Google has for years been a target of the Chinese government, and some official publications have cited the company as one component of a Western conspiracy to undermine China. For example, Chinese officials had insisted Google censor its search results, a request that angered some top executives at Google, and they refused to comply. Chinese companies like Baidu, which has a popular search engine here, benefit from the official crackdown on Google.

Chinese and foreign Internet users in China expressed their frustration on Monday at the government’s new blocking measures.

“They shouldn’t have blocked Google or Gmail; it’s against the spirit of the Internet,” Yuan Shengang, the chief executive of Netentsec, a Beijing-based cybersecurity company, said in a telephone interview. […] [Source]

Weibo user AtlasTor comments on a Google “Transparency Report” showing Gmail traffic from China dropping sharply on Friday:

Transparency Report screenshot

AtlasTor: I think this is the Chinese Internet’s EKG. (December 29, 2014)


Coverage from the Wall Street Journal’s Chuin-Wei Yap situates this new development into the ongoing row between Google and Beijing that has long made the use of Google products inconvenient from within China, especially so in recent months:

Gmail and other Google services were blocked in China in June, ahead of 25th anniversary of Beijing’s deadly suppression of the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests. Access to Gmail through browser windows was blocked.

Still, Gmail users were able to access it using third-party email applications such as Microsoft Corp. ’s Outlook or Apple Inc. ’s Mail. Now that access appears to have been cut.

Google clashed with Beijing in 2010 after the company decided to stop censoring its Internet search results in China. Google shifted most of its Chinese operations to Hong Kong as a result, and many of company’s services on the mainland have since worked intermittently. [Source]

This move comes after Lu Wei, China’s “cyberspace minister,” spelled out the need for the preservation of individual nation’s “Internet sovereignty” at the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, Zhejiang. In September, Lu had commented on the need for control and order online: “Freedom and order are twin sisters, and they must live together.” In October the official stressed that while “hospitable” to foreign Internet companies, Beijing had every right to “choose who can come to our home and be our guest.”

CDT has translated a few Chinese-language Tweets on Gmail’s blockage in China:

I just realized that blocking Gmail could be the GFW [Great Firewall]’s greatest milestone. This is different from big websites that have been blocked before. Email is one of the most important ways that people communicate personally and for work, and is also the most important tool for for registering for websites and recovering passwords. The effect will be felt both inside and outside the Wall. Even so, netizen opposition has been moderate. When the GFW blocks other websites in the future, it won’t face any established resistance.

This time Gmail’s been blocked. All domestic email servers are unable to send and receive Gmails. Scaling the wall to check email is no problem—the U.S. has not yet realized the Chinese Dream, and Gmail is still there. The Great Chinese LAN’s most sinister trick—sealing off communications between email servers—is not high tech, they could do this years ago. But did they dare? Only after Steamed Bun Xi’s rise to power do they have the courage for this type of craziness!!

To put it frankly, China’s netizens are divided into two types: one consists of those who don’t care what the GFW does anymore, the other of those who don’t know what the GFW is up to. #stunned