Because of the infrastructure of China’s Internet censorship and surveillance system, most online traffic runs at a limping pace, whether accessed directly or through a virtual private network (VPN), software designed to allow users to circumvent the Great Firewall and access websites currently blocked in the country. The wide-ranging list of blocked sites include Businessweek.com, Bloomberg.com, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. In recent years, the online censors’ ability to detect VPNs and terminate connections has grown so much so that anyone using such software spends a majority of their web time starting and restarting their programs and refreshing Web pages.
There are political, business, and productivity costs to China’s Internet censorship and surveillance systems. For the past two years the American Chamber of Commerce in Beijing is concerned on behalf of US firms on issues such as market access, intellectual property rights, and labor costs. The 2013 Business Climate Survey, released on March 29, sheds light on how US firms feel about the Great Firewall.
Of the 325 respondents, 55 percent see China’s Internet restrictions as negatively or somewhat negatively affecting their capacity to do business there. About 62 percent said the disruption of search engines make it more difficult to obtain real-time market data, share time-sensitive information, or collaborate with colleagues based outside of China. And 72 percent said that slow and unstable Internet speeds impede their ability to efficiently conduct business in China.
Currently, the top business risks in China include inconsistent regulatory interpretation, corruption, and rising labor costs. Therefore, are the Internet issues US companies are facing in China just minor annoyances or are theses issues really having a negative affects business?