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Capsule Review

The Great Firewall of China: How to Build and Control an Alternative Version of the Internet

In This Review

The Great Firewall of China: How to Build and Control an Alternative Version of the Internet
The Great Firewall of China: How to Build and Control an Alternative Version of the Internet
By James Griffiths
Zed Books, 2019 400 pp. Purchase

Controlling the Internet was supposed to be as hopeless as nailing Jell-O to the wall, as U.S. President Bill Clinton said, but in this vividly reported narrative, Griffiths tells exactly when and how China achieved it. Chinese dissidents, the U.S. government, and Internet giants went up against the Chinese state—and lost. Software built to help Chinese users leap over the Great Firewall to reach foreign websites has been checkmated. Facebook, Google, and others surrendered to Chinese censorship demands in order to access the Chinese market. And China’s homegrown tech giants, which are loyal to the regime, seized control of the market. Beijing outspent its challengers in order to field cutting-edge censorship technology, often purchased from American suppliers. Now it is exporting both its technology and its ideology of cyber-sovereignty to other countries. Griffiths condemns the “moral failing” of Silicon Valley firms and despairs that “the censors are on the advance.”

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