The Great Wall of China was an ambitious attempt by The First Emperor Qin Shi Huang to protect the people of China from invasion from warring nations and states. Today, a massive internet boycott will take place in protest against the country’s newest blockade – the Green Dam project.
As a military strategy, The Great Wall of China was simple to say the least, and its efficiency is generally thought to be limited. Guards are rumoured to have let in undesirables in return for bribes, and any army with serious intentions could find a way to breach it.
Interestingly, it is thought that the Great Wall was also intended to prevent evil spirits from entering the country, with some spent builders actually buried in its walls for that purpose. It’s difficult to ascertain how effective it was in this area, although both Margaret Thatcher and Rupert Murdoch have both managed to sneak into the country over the years.
The Great Wall was abandoned in the 1600s when a bunch of Manchu soldiers rode straight through a sentry point and into Beijing, where they established the Qing dynasty. They didn’t think much of the Great Wall (well, it hadn’t exactly thwarted their efforts, had it?), and simply left it to fall into disrepair. A lesson to be learned there, perhaps.
The Green Dam project is the second phase of a large-scale defence strategy implemented by the Chinese government. The first phase, the Golden Shield project – often dubbed the Great Firewall of China – is a large-scale censorship strategy that is set up to halt attackers and evil spirits (porn, violence, wikipedia, BBC…) trying to enter the country via its internet servers.
Like a 5ft wall versus an angry, well-equipped army, it has had limited efficacy. Although a lot of users remain content to have their browsing curtailed (or simply don’t know how to get around the censorship), angry surfers are logging on via a VPN (virtual private network) in order to access banned sites such as wikipedia and the BBC.
Like the bent sentry guards of the Great Wall, the guardians of the Great Firewall are also prone to corruption. The website Murphy’s Law recently reported that: “…a senior official (Yu Bing) of the Golden Shield operation was arrested for taking over $5 million in bribes to help one anti-virus software company put a rival out of business. The rival fought back in the courts, and exposed the corruption within Golden Shield.”
Green Dam was supposed to offer another layer of protection to vulnerable net users. From today, all computer hardware sold in, or exported to, China was supposed to come with Green Dam software, which would protect the user from being attacked by any marauding porn sites that attempt to hijack his or her PC.
Although some nervous net-users were comforted by the little cyber-soldiers, many more people were outraged at the government’s attempt to curb their freedoms. Last night, the government backed down, and announced that the Green Dam project would be delayed (they didn’t say until when).
Outspoken artist, commentator and blogger Ai Weiwei is today inviting users to boycott the web in protest against Green Dam – a move that has infuriated officials. Whether the Great Firewall of China, along with its little sentry of Green Dam guards, will go the same way as the Great Wall of China is yet to be seen. Given the aggressive tactics of viruses, hackers and social protesters, I don’t fancy its chances for long…
Video: Can Bloggers Collapse the Great Firewall of China?