Home > Analysis, media, News, technology > 龙信明 BLOG: “China, Skype, and “The End of The World as we Know It””

龙信明 BLOG: “China, Skype, and “The End of The World as we Know It””

On December 10, 2010, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology made a very brief announcement asking citizens to report illegal use of VOIP in China. This was further elaborated later by Deputy Minister of the MIIT, Xi Guohua, where the efforts were aimed at curbing fraudulent and swindling activities involving criminals using their PC’s to call regular telephones. PC to PC calls are not regulated. However, PC to Phone calls are, and China currently has given licenses to four operators on a pilot basis.

For over a week, the Western media reported a “ban” on the popular VOIP service, Skype. Well, actually, Skype is not even that popular in China. In the grander scheme of things, it is always about whether Western companies comply with Chinese laws or not. It is also about the Chinese government protecting her citizens from foreign governments and foreign corporations in our world of an inter-connected Internet. Following is an interesting and brief take from the 龙信明 BLOG:

China has apparently decided to regulate the use of foreign VOIP communications, a decision that will primarily affect Skype, which is partly owned by Web retailer eBay Inc, who abandoned China after floundering in the market for several years, apparently unable to understand that it’s a different country.

The timing of a ban in one of the world’s fastest growing markets could dampen investor enthusiasm for Skype as it prepares a 2011 initial public offering. The Luxembourg-based company, which has about 124 million users worldwide, was expected to be valued at about $1 billion in the IPO, but that may change. The latest news is another setback after Skype’s recent global service outage, which cast doubts on the reliability of the service.

Skype’s Josh Silverman said, “Nearly 1 in 6 people in the world live in China, and a “great many” of them rely on Skype to connect with families and friends, run businesses, and call people around the world”. Well, about 12,000 of them, anyway. Maybe that’s a “great many” to Mr. Silverman, but in China anything less than 100 million is a trivial distraction. And then a Skype spokesman in the United States said he did not know how many Chinese users it had.

And, right on cue, the Western Press has been conducting a small frenzy over the decision to regulate or ban this channel, but it would seem we need a bit less political philosophising and a bit more practicality. The blind Jingoism in many of the articles and associated reader comments doesn’t contribute much to a useful education.

We have comments like “The end of China”, “immense collateral damage”, “self-colonisation”, “tremendous technological implications”, “incredible setback”, “inalienable rights violated”, “Hitler and Stalin”……. Jesus.

People of the World, we’re talking about regulating free phone calls over the internet, not the abolition of motherhood.

In Canada (and in the US, I believe), people cannot buy a private satellite dish – it’s against the law to deal with other than a government-licensed vendor because that is considered stealing communication services. It’s exactly the same thing – you can’t arrange for your own (free) transmission and reception; you must use a recognised and approved service.

There ain’t no morality here; there ain’t no religion here; there ain’t no “let’s save the world from communism” here. No politics, no philosophy, just some commercial and security practicality.

Part of China’s decision may have been commercial, but I’m sure part was due to surveillance problems – and not by China.

You already know that Google (and all other ISPs) scans every message that goes through gmail, looks for keywords, and forwards everything of interest to the CIA. So do Facebook, Twitter, MSN, and the mobile phone companies. The WSJ had a recent article stating that MORE THAN 1.7 billion messages are forwarded each day to the NSA and CIA. Skype is the same. The CIA made Skype an offer it couldn’t refuse, and now it apparently has a back door to intercept, listen to, and record, all calls worldwide.

And you’re complaining about China?

The Chinese government doesn’t want foreign products intercepting domestic communications and forwarding them to the US CIA to be used against China. And neither would you. So get off your high horse.

Categories: Analysis, media, News, technology Tags: ,
  1. Charles Liu
    January 6th, 2011 at 16:31 | #1

    Skype is not banned in China, rather the speculated *potential* enforcement is due to different regulations for PC-to-phone and international calls.

    According to this article Skype-TOM venture in China will have security compatible version of software to satisfy public security requirement:

    http://www.businessinsider.com/heres-the-real-reason-for-skypes-china-headaches-2011-1

    Skype spokesperson also denied the ban:

    http://channel.hexus.net/content/item.php?item=28181

  2. Charles Liu
    January 6th, 2011 at 17:00 | #2

    This article from China explains the regulatory differences between phone-to-phone, pc-to-pc, and pc-to-phone calls:

    http://www.cnr.cn/gundong/201012/t20101230_507530878_2.html

  3. January 6th, 2011 at 18:38 | #3

    Without doing much research myself, I recognize 2 issues:

    1. network management: voice calls take up bandwidth – video even more; in the U.S., the FCC recently passed rules on how broadband (especially wireless carriers) might be able to block / slow down / impede / charge for high bandwidth applications (see e.g. http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2010/12/fcc-rule/) in the name of “reasonable network management.” If FCC can regulate broadband carriers in the name of high bandwidth applications, why cannot the Chinese government regulate communication carriers (which are inherently high bandwidth) like skype directly?

    2. authenticity and trusted identities on the Internet: a lot of fraud and crimes are perpetrated over the Internet; more than ever, even in a country like the U.S., there is a call for creating online spaces where people can interact with each other only when there identities have been verified (see e.g. http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/06/25/national-strategy-trusted-identities-cyberspace). If the Chinese gov’t see communication accounts to fall into such space and want to ensure the users are identified and certified, and skype does not comply to the standard the gov’t desires, I also don’t see any problem with applying pressure to non-compliant companies – including skype…

  4. Wukailong
    January 6th, 2011 at 19:12 | #4

    I’ve never heard Skype was banned, in any media outlet. Googling it mostly reveals tech magazines.

  5. January 7th, 2011 at 00:09 | #5

    @Wukailong

    You will need to search for around the last week of December 2010. I remember seeing these headlines and started digging into it today. That’s when I also found the analysis at 龙信明 BLOG.

    The tech magazines – PC Mag, CNet, ZDNet etc were actually the worst in their coverage. Telegraph, Guardian, NPR, and Washington Post were bad, but not as bad as the tech magazines coverage.

    Also, looking at the reader comments at all these articles really goes to show how brainwashed those Westerners are. With this kind of coverage in the Western media about China day in and day out, do we have to wonder why there are those comments?

    “China makes Skype illegal”
    Telegraph UK
    Malcolm Moore in Shanghai 2:00PM GMT 30 Dec 2010
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/internet/8231444/China-makes-Skype-illegal.html

    “Internet phone service Skype banned in China. P15”
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/dec/31/1?INTCMP=SRCH

    “China To Go After Internet Phone Services”
    NPR
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=132472562

    “China targets Internet phone service, potentially dealing a blow to Skype”
    Saturday, January 1, 2011
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/31/AR2010123103641.html

  6. Charles Liu
    January 10th, 2011 at 11:32 | #6

    Worse, there’s no desire to develop the story further than the “official narrative”. Is there any correction or retraction on any of these stories that later turns out to be half-truth or twist of fact?

    This is the only one I found on the Skype story:

    http://www.fiercevoip.com/story/china-voip-ban-all-hype/2011-01-10

  7. April 22nd, 2011 at 10:50 | #7

    i agree that skype is being monitored heavily by the u.s. govt. i would really like to see an alternative voip and use something that i know wont be monitored by the u.s. govt. i think China has done a good job protecting its industries, and hope to see further bans of foreign companies. China has steered away from its core values in the past 10 yrs and its time to go back to that once again, putting Chinese companies first, and foreign companies last, especially those that cooperate with the cia, fbi, mi6, nsa, and the rest of the axis of evil. i try hard to not use google, facebook, or twitter. something just seems very wrong about them

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.