Without access to the internet, thousands, maybe millions of businesses would be at a loss; nay, they would not exist. It is impossible to even conceive what business looks like without the internet these days. But this is an actual and real problem for businesses located in China. It’s a hot topic because the Chinese government restricts access to so much of the internet that it has become almost impossible for certain kinds of businesses to do business. As a result of these bans, business owners have had to come up with some pretty clever ways of getting access to some of the most popular websites in the world: Facebook, Twitter, and news media sites. VPNs, or virtual private networks, have been popping up all over China – and then have been shut down almost as quickly because of the government. And it’s hurting business all over the globe, but especially in China.
As one of the major exporters of goods anywhere in the world, it seems bizarre to think that Chinese business people don’t have access to the same kind of internet privileges that North Americans do, for example. We have the ability to launch businesses from the comfort of our couch, every day of the week if we like, but Chinese business people have to jump through some pretty incredible hoops just to be able to stay operational – forget thinking about starting another business.
There are many examples of business people, as well as the employees who work for those business people, who can’t do their jobs effectively without the internet. Imagine having to search for a news story about anything outside of China – it’s near impossible to get access to that information. It means that the information that is generated in China stays in China and the information from outside China has a hard time getting into the country. Right or wrong, it makes doing business for even the “mom and pops” stores difficult.
Without VPNs, businesses could shut down. While it doesn’t seem that the government wants its people to go out of business, they would prefer that people find another way of doing business – without the internet access they need. Sounds pretty simple…or, not.
There have been several instances recently in which VPN providers have had to close up shop because of warnings and claims from the government that they are practicing in illegal ways. So, not only does the loss of a VPN system impact the business people who were tapping into that VPN, it also impacts the businesses that were selling access to the people in China. This goes far beyond the borders of China and impacts our ability to gain access to their information as well as share ours with them.
The internet provides people with opportunity. Without opportunity, business remains stagnant and can fail miserably. In an effort to protect their information, they have put up a giant firewall and it is truly impacting people who are just trying to make a living. While the internet is full of terrible things all the time, it is also the gateway for hundreds of billions of dollars of business each year. And the business people of China are losing out.