The Shanghai Free Trade Zone is Not Enough to End China's Internet Censorship

The Shanghai Free Trade Zone increases the likelihood of economic progress, but the presence of internet censorship causes unease for foreigners collaborating with financial firms in China.

The Shanghai Free Trade Zone opened on Sept. 29 as an invitation for foreign investors and businesses to do work in China. Chinese administrators informed the South China Morning Post of the lack of internet censorship in the new trade zone, which is part of an attempt to attract more businesses and foreigners. Those in the zone have access to Facebook, Twitter, and the New York Times website. Although profitable and strategic, this has been contradicted by People's Daily, which insists the Great Firewall of China will remain active in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone. If so, businesses and foreigners could be discouraged from collaborating with firms there. Chinese administrators should reconsider and realize that internet censorship only reduces the prospect of their economic progress. Freer internet access is necessary for economic reforms, and is a welcoming gesture for firms and foreigners to build professional and personal relationships with Chinese businesses and magnates. Thus, if changed, Shanghai could cause more Chinese cities to request access to popular social media and news websites.

Coined the "Golden Shield Project," the Great Firewall of China is a filtering and monitoring program that restricts access to websites and online content considered inappropriate. The program uses multiple methods for censorship including IP blocking, URL filtering, packet filtering, connection reset and DNS filtering, and redirection. Based on these extensive measures, Chinese administrators are portrayed as dictators of the internet as they have blocked informational and interactive websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, WordPress, YouTube, and Yahoo from being accessed in China.

The Shanghai Free Trade Zone eliminates this hindrance. It extends through 28.78 kilometers of the Pudong District, encompassing the Waigaoqiao Free Trade Zone and Yangshan Port. This is a great opportunity because it offers foreigners a sense of comfort and familiarity, and introduces Chinese firms to new businesses in other cities. The Shanghai Free Trade Zone not only adds to the country's economic stability, but shows people that China is lessening its regimented control over the internet.

In addition, the Shanghai Free Trade Zone contributes to a more efficient financial system, which includes an easier way of converting Chinese yuan. There are risks, but analysts from Standard Chartered commented on the benefits of this trade zone, which implies their backing an ease on internet censorship.

"If the authorities restrict the companies to conduct all their business only within the zone, the impact will be very small," said financial analysts Stephen Green, Wei Li and Robert Minikin. "On the other hand, if the freed-up financial services within the zone are accessible to any firm in China that merely sets up a representative office in the zone, China would basically have opened up its capital account." Thus, effective communication and shared information is vital to the Shanghai Free Trade Zone's success and it can be accomplished through an ease on internet censorship.