Intenet in China is a world unto itself, where government monitors content and the word's most-popualr websites and apps are not easily accessible. Photo: KnowInsiders
Internet in China is a world unto itself, where the government monitors content and the word's most popular websites and apps are not easily accessible. Photo: KnowInsiders

Starting in the late 1990s, China began monitoring and censoring the internet within its borders. That first decade of internet censorship flew mostly under the radar.

China blocks thousands of websites (more than 8,000 websites to date) using its notorious filtering system, “The Great Firewall”. The reason for China’s aggressive take on the Internet is to allegedly protect its citizens from outside influence and “harmful information”.

For this reason, netizens from other parts of the world who travel to China for business, leisure, or living there usually have problems keeping track of the blocked websites in the country.

Why does China ban access to so many websites?

The Chinese government believes in the notion of cyber sovereignty. This is the idea that all countries should control how the internet operates in their country and the different types of content that its people can access.

There are several reasons why the Chinese leadership has developed such a restrictive attitude towards the internet. These include a desire to suppress information about controversial historical events and to limit the capacity of citizens to form social movements and organize collective action.

Fortunately, the Chinese authorities appear usually to be willing to turn a blind eye to tourists or expats attempting to circumvent internet restrictions.

What is the Great Firewall of China?

The name “Great Firewall of China” is a tongue-in-cheek mixture of the Great Wall of China with “firewall”, the technology used by the government to block access to websites. It was coined in the late ’90s when China first started its efforts to censor the internet. Since then the control the government has leveraged over its citizens’ access has only grown stronger, forcing millions of users to seek alternate methods to regain their freedom online.

There are over 60 different laws in China that regulate internet content. This includes things like filtering keywords out of search engine results, blocking websites, and throttling traffic that crosses the border, encouraging users to rely on Chinese-made sites. These measures are enforced by branches of state-owned ISPs and affect everyone in the mainland, both citizens and travelers alike.

The Great Firewall of China blocks over 3,000 sites, and the list is constantly growing. The authorities give vague reasonings behind each filter, such as protecting the interests of the citizens and removing objectionable content. As many journalists in China have noted, however, the blocks are largely targeted towards content that could harm powerful political and corporate interests.

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What are the top websites and apps that were banned in China?

1. Google

Photo: Travel China Cheaper
Photo: Travel China Cheaper

Yes, you cannot Google in China. The world's most-popular search engine is blocked in the country. Baidu is Google's rival in China.

Duration of blockage: 2010 to present

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2. Facebook

Photo: Travel China Cheaper
Photo: Travel China Cheaper

The world's no. 1 social network too is not accessible in China. WeChat is the largest social media platform in China.

Duration of blockage: 2009, July (or earlier) to present

3. Twitter

Photo: Travel China Cheaper
Photo: Travel China Cheaper

The popular micro-blogging website Twitter too is banned in China. Weibo is Twitter's equivalent in China.

Duration of blockage: 2009, June to present

4. YouTube

Photo: Travel China Cheaper
Photo: Travel China Cheaper

Google-owned video platform YouTube too is blocked. YouTube rivals in China are Youku.com, a subsidiary of Alibaba, and Tencent Video.

Duration of blockage: 2009 to present

5. Instagram

Photo: Travel China Cheaper
Photo: Travel China Cheaper

Like its parent company Facebook, the photo-sharing platform, Instagram too is blocked in China. Tencent-owned WeChat is said to be a mix of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram.

Duration of blockage: 2014, September to present

6. Gmail

Photo: Travel China Cheaper
Photo: Travel China Cheaper

The world's most-popular email service Gmail is blocked in China. It can't be accessed from anywhere within the country.

Duration of blockage: 2014, December to present

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7. WhatsApp

Photo: Travel China Cheaper
Photo: Travel China Cheaper

The world's no. 1 instant messaging app WhatsApp is blocked in China. Tencent-owned instant messaging app QQ is quite popular in the country.

Duration of blockage: 2017, 26 September, to present

8. Google Maps

Photo: Travel China Cheaper
Photo: Travel China Cheaper

Like all popular Google services, Google Maps too is banned in China. The map developed by Baidu search engine is widely considered the most popularly-used map in China.

Duration of blockage: 2010 to present

9. Quora

Photo: Travel China Cheaper
Photo: Travel China Cheaper

The question and answer site and app is not accessible in China. One of its key rival in China is Zhihu.

Duration of blockage: 2018, August to present

10. Tinder

Photo: Travel China Cheaper
Photo: Travel China Cheaper

The dating app cannot be accessed in China. One of the most-popular dating app in China is Momo.

Duration of blockage: Unknown

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