China’s Internet Censors Play a Tougher Game of Cat and Mouse

The shift — which could affect a swath of users from researchers to businesses — suggests that China is increasingly worried about the power of the internet, experts said.

“It does appear the crackdown is becoming more intense, but the internet is also more powerful than it has ever been,” said Emily Parker, author of “Now I Know Who My Comrades Are,” a book about the power of the internet in China, Cuba, and Russia. “Beijing’s crackdown on the internet is commensurate with the power of the internet in China.”

China still has not clamped down to its full ability, the experts said, and in many cases the cat-and-mouse game continues. One day after Apple’s move last week, people on Chinese social media began circulating a way to gain access to those tools that was so easy that even a non-techie could use it. (It involved registering a person’s app store to another country where VPN apps were still available.)

Still, Thursday’s test demonstrates that China wants the ability to change the game in favor of the cat.

A number of Chinese internet service providers said on their social media accounts, websites, or in emails on Thursday that Chinese security officials would test a new way to find the internet addresses of services hosting or using illegal content. Once found, these companies said, the authorities would ask internet service providers to tell their clients to stop. If the clients persisted, they said, the service providers and Chinese officials would cut their connection in a matter of minutes.

The Ministry of Public Security did not respond to a faxed request for comment.

Studies suggest that anywhere from tens of millions to well over a hundred million Chinese people use VPNs and other types of software to get around the Great Firewall. While the blocks on foreign television shows and pornography ward off many people, they often pose only minor challenges to China’s huge population of web-savvy internet users.

China’s president, Xi Jinping, has presided over years of new internet controls, but he has also singled out technology and the internet as critical to China’s future economic development. As cyberspace has become more central to everything that happens in China, government controls have evolved.

It is difficult to figure out the extent of the new efforts, since many users and businesses will not discuss them publicly for fear of getting on the bad side with the Chinese…

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