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China's new cybersecurity rules ban foreign companies from using VPNs to phone home

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For decades, it was a commonplace in western business that no one could afford to ignore China: whatever problems a CEO might have with China's human rights record could never outweigh the profits to be had by targeting the growing Chinese middle-class. Businesses tied themselves in knots trying to reconcile this. Exactly 15 years ago, I challenged the Chairman of Google's Board at the Web 2.0 Conference over his company's decision to censor its search-results to help the Chinese state suppress political dissidence (his excuse: censoring search results delivered a "superior user experience" because including sites blocked by the Great Firewall in search results would just frustrate Chinese users who tried to click on them). The real reason? Yahoo was in China, and in 2004, if you wanted to get Google to do something stupid, all you needed to do was get Yahoo to do it first. Two years later, we learned that Yahoo had secured their commercial future in China by helping the Chinese state target dissidents' Yahoo Mail inboxes, so that Yahoo's users could be kidnapped and tortured for their political activities. Five years after that, Google disclosed that Chinese spies had hacked Gmail in order to continue their surveillance of pro-democracy activists, and revealed that this was the reason the company had pulled out of China altogether. Google co-founder Sergey Brin, a Soviet refugee, could not stomach being a party to repressive state surveillance. But since then, Google has embarked upon a secret project to re-introduce a censored/surveilling search tool to the Chinese market. Read the rest

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