China is cracking down on web freedom in a big way, the Washington Post reports:
Google has been steadily strangled, and Gmail finally blocked more effectively than ever. Instagram and Flickr recently went black, whileMicrosoft Outlook was hacked. In the past few days, virtual private network (VPN) services, the tools that many people use here to evade online censorship, came under renewed attack.The screws were further tightened in the second half of last year, after Xi took control of a new supervisory body designed to bolster the nation’s cybersecurity.Hacking attacks have intensified, with users of Microsoft Outlook, Google, Yahoo and Apple services all targeted in the past three months, said Charlie Smith of GreatFire.org, an organization dedicated to combating online censorship in China. Services including Flickr, Instagram and Microsoft One Drive were blocked, as well as popular Asian chat services such as Line and Kaokao Talk.“Last year’s crackdown has been the most aggressive in the history of Chinese censorship on the Internet,” [Smith] wrote in an e-mail.
Google and China have been going at it for years, and Beijing was never particularly happy about citizens’ ability to use VPNs to get through the wall, but what we are seeing now is on another level. It’s all part of Xi’s plan for shepherding China through what he foresees as imminent economic hard times. He’s battening down the hatches of the Party’s power structure, of the political culture, and now in the virtual world, too.