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.