The Chinese government’s crackdown on the internet continues with the news that Apple has removed all major VPN apps, which help internet users overcome the country’s censorship system, from the App Store in China.
The move was first noted by ExpressVPN, a provider based outside of China, which said in a blog post “all major VPN apps” including its own had been purged from Apple’s China-based store. The company shared a note from Apple (below) explaining that its app was removed because “it includes content that is illegal in China.”
The app continues to be available for users across the world outside of China, the company said. However, the process to create an App Store account in a different country is unknown to many users, so it is unlikely to fill the void of the missing Chinese app.
Another provide, Star VPN, tweeted that its app had also been removed.
Apple had not replied for comment at the time of writing. In a statement issued later it said it was “required” to remove the apps because they violate Chinese law.
For much of the last decade China’s Great Firewall has been relatively porous. As with so much in a command economy, rules tend to be for other people. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have been available for much of the last decade and allowed individuals access to the unfiltered version of the internet available in much of the world outside China.
The Party Congress is coming up in the autumn and with such a large number of seats in the Politburo and the, more important, Standing Committee up for grabs there no room for uncertainty. There a definite air of tightening discipline in China right now.
At the hotel I am staying at the Google, Bloomberg and Reuters websites all stopped working last night. On inquiring from the business centre the girl we talked to said that on previous occasions they got a warning from the authorities, turned off their VPN for a few days, then turned it back on. This time the notice went to head office and the order is permanent.
The political stakes for Xi Jinping couldn’t be higher. He has a once in a generation opportunity to install people sympathetic to his world view that will secure his influence well beyond his political tenure. The last person with this kind of opportunity Jiang Zemin so we can anticipate that any and all measures will be taken to ensure nothing is left to chance.
The strengthening of the Renminbi this year reflects a desire to re-instill confidence while the relatively inert environment on the stock market is equally a symptom of the desire for stability. Quite what the tone of policy will be following the Party Congress is very much open to debate but we can expect China to jealously protect its interests, in every sphere of influence at least until that event.
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