What is the Great Firewall?

The internet has brought our world a lot of convenience and ease. From instantly finding the latest news to hopping onto a video call with your friends and family on the other side of the planet. Our fast-paced interconnected world has made it easy for us to do just about anything with a device and an internet connection — whether that’s entertainment on demand, working remotely, or communicating with someone at the click of a button.

With international travel slowly but surely returning to normal, many people are already planning their overseas holidays and business trips. As exciting as this may be, there are some factors that you need to know about before you travel to some countries. While you’re on your travels, you may encounter internet censorship.

Internet censorship is not uncommon in our modern society, but if you find yourself stuck inside the borders of a country that employs strict internet censorship policies, you could be left frustrated. The country with the strictest internet censorship is China. China’s Great Firewall prevents anyone from inside their borders to access foreign news websites, social media platforms, and even some Google services. However, there is a way to get around the Great Firewall. Make sure you read to the end of the article for some helpful guidelines on making sure that you will be able to bypass strict internet censorship.

What is the Great Firewall?

The Great Firewall is the internet censorship system that China has in place. China has the strictest internet censorship policy in the world. If you’re planning on visiting the country soon. It’s something that you will need to plan for.

In 1998, the Chinese communist party launched its Great Firewall project. The main reason behind the creation of this project is because the communist party had fears that the Chinese Democracy Party would use the internet to their advantage by forming relationships with foreign countries — we’ll dive further into why China blocks websites shortly!

From within the Chinese borders, you will be unable to access several websites that you would normally be able to access. From your local news websites to your favorite social media platforms, and even some Google services, you’re bound to encounter some frustrating internet censorship if you’re visiting China.

Why Does the Great Firewall Exist?

The Chinese government created the Great Firewall defense. The idea was that they would prevent people within the country’s borders from accessing the internet. The Chinese Communist Party saw the internet as a threat — not only could their citizens get information and receive communications from other countries, but they could also leak information out of the country to the rest of the world.

This is ultimately why the majority of Google services have been blocked in China. In 2009, the country blocked the Google image and video search function after a video of police brutality in China emerged for all the world to see. In an attempt to prevent any further damaging leaks, Google was simply blocked entirely.

Foreign news websites are often also blocked from being accessed within China. The reasoning behind this is that many foreign news websites will post articles and stories that undermine the Chinese government and their leadership, ultimately causing their citizens to lose faith in them and increasing the chances of riots and protests flaring up against the leading party.

Perhaps the strangest internet censorship that you might be wondering about is the fact that China also blocks social media platforms such as Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram. Social media platforms were widely used by anti-government protesters and activists in 2009 as a form of communication and as a way to undermine the Chinese government. Once again, the Great Firewall was used to block anyone inside the country from accessing any social media sites.

How to Bypass the Great Firewall

So, with such strict internet censorship in place, how can you visit China and still access your usual websites while you’re inside Chinese borders? The solution comes in the form of a popular cybersecurity tool known as a virtual private network, or VPN for short.

The main purpose of a VPN is to keep your devices safe and secure. While using a VPN, your connection will be encrypted — this is especially helpful when you’re traveling! While traveling through foreign countries, you’ll likely have to use the cheap and convenient public WiFi hotspots such as the ones found at most airports, hotels, and restaurants. The problem though is that these hotspots often use unsecured networks.

Cybercriminals thrive on unsecured networks too, which is the main threat that your device will be facing while you travel abroad. While your device is connected to an unsecured network, hackers can “listen in” on your device and steal any data that your device sends or receives through the connection — including login credentials, personal information, and even banking details. With an encrypted connection though, everything you do on your device will be masked — not even your internet service provider or the government can keep track of your internet traffic, making a VPN the ultimate tool for privacy and security.

But, while that feature is incredibly helpful, it’s not what allows you to bypass internet censorship. VPNs have an additional feature — the ability to change your virtual location at the click of a button, and this is the reason why they have become so popular in recent years. VPNs use secure global servers in different locations around the world. Once your device connects to one of these servers, your real IP address will be hidden, and your device will adopt the IP address of the server you are connected to. This will trick websites into believing that your device is accessing it from elsewhere allowing you to bypass internet censorship and geo-blocking restrictions.

However, you must install a premium VPN on your device before you travel. The Great Firewall blocks any websites that allow you to download a VPN onto your device, so if you’re already within Chinese borders without a VPN, it’ll be too late.

Show More