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nt VPN systems.” Telecom giants such as China Unicom can cut connections when they identify a VPN in use. Some limited internal use of VPNs by companies is permitted, but a usage record is required. Moreover, only specially licensed vendors may supply the necessary systems.10

Enforcement of the restrictions on VPN usage has been tightened since the new cybersecurity law was passed in 2016. In addition to bringing about the shuttering of Chinese VPN services, this campaign appears to have proven compelling to Apple: In July 2017, the global tech giant confirmed that it would cease offering prohibited VPN apps through the version of its app store aimed at PRC users.11

China’s intensified internet-control mechanisms are now entering the “big data” era, and they have increasingly come to intersect with the PRC’s wider surveillance and information-collection infrastructure. In the past five years, both Chinese state agencies and their private-sector partners have begun exploiting their access to a wide array of systematic data about citizens.


  1. 10. Charles Arthur, “China Tightens ‘Great Firewall’ Internet Control with New Technology,” Guardian, 14 December 2012; Leo Zhao and Lulu Xia, “China’s Cybersecurity Law: An Introduction for Foreign Businesspeople,” China Briefing, 1 March 2018,
  2. 11. “China’s Great Firewall Gets Tougher as Popular VPN Shut Down,” Bloomberg, 3 July 2017,; Cate Cadell, “Apple Says It Is Removing VPN Services from China App Store,” Reuters, 29 July 2017,; Zhao and Xia, “China’s Cybersecurity Law.”