Chongqing cloud zone accused of double standard

06 Jul 2011

ITEM: A cloud development zone in Chongqing is drawing fire for reportedly offering unblocked internet access for foreign businesses, which local businesses forced to use China’s censored version of the internet are denouncing as a double standard.

According to sister publication Computerworld Hong Kong, Chongqing’s Cloud Computing Special Zone – a planned collection of data centers meant to attract multinational investment and boost China's status as a cloud computing hub – will reportedly allow unrestricted access to the Internet for MNCs who set up shop in the zone.

Media reports and social networking users in China are taking this to mean that foreign companies get unfiltered internet access while locals still have to use the filtered version.

Neither the Chongqing Economic and Information Technology Commission, which is overseeing development of the zone, nor Pacnet – who is providing capacity to the data center zone, and whose Pacnet Business Solutions JV with Zhong Ren Telecom signed an MoU with the Chongqing government in March to develop a data center there – have commented on the reports. So it’s hard to separate fact from rumor (especially when it comes to social network chatter).

Whatever is going on in Chongqing, the story does raise several perennial questions for the Chinese government, whose policies and techniques for internet censorship are well-known:

Can they attract MNC investment for internet-related projects like this whilst requiring them to submit to the country’s content restrictions?

And if not, is it fair to allow foreign businesses full access whilst blocking local companies (which might then put them at a competitive disadvantage)?

And if it isn’t, can the central government have it both ways?

Those are questions that China’s recently created State Internet Information Office ought to be looking at closely, if it isn’t already.

That said, I sincerely doubt they'll reach any conclusion that brings the Great Firewall down anytime soon – why should they, as long as other governments around the world openly look for ways to get internet content under some kind of control?

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