If digital policy changes in China today, you will be able to see Facebook posts not only while out of China but while within the country.
Unfortunately as things stand now, the use of popular social networking sites in China is blocked by a firewall. However, participants at the Fortune Global Conference in Chengdu, China have been accessing Facebook and other social networks; the attendants are experiencing what it would feel like if the existing policy were to change.
The conference hosts 500 executives of high-octane Fortune companies in various cities. It has previously taken place in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Beijing. It is now taking place in Chengdu and this is good news for the little known city which holds a population of about 14,000,000 since it will be put on the spotlight.
Allowing use of Twitter and Facebook would portray China as a flexible country, one that has a positive attitude towards social networks. This would be a good gesture but it seems there is a lot to be wished for going by the access level permitted at the conference. According to the Hispanic Business report, access to Twitter and Facebook is limited to Shangri-La Hotel where the conference takes place. It is only inside the hotel where participants can post and log on. Participants cannot access Facebook while in other hotels or in their rooms.
All the people who can get their hands on Facebook and other social networks, the press included, are using them to the maximum to promote the global profile of the conference. For instance, on Twitter the hashtag #fortuneglobal has been created by the conference in a bid to spur a discussion.
One glance at the #fortuneglobal discussion will inform you that the discussants comprise foreign press members as well as members from multinational companies such as McKinsey. It is interesting to note that Chinese citizens themselves are not as active in this discussion. While hotel employees have access to the social networking site, they choose not to participate.
Chengdu is happy with the fact that foreigners can come and use social sites, bring in foreign currency and raise the profile of the hotel as well as that of the city. This however should not be interpreted as government’s change of attitude towards the US- based social networking sites especially when it comes to giving its citizens access to such sites.
In case you are thinking that this is the first maybe the last time Facebook and other social networks have found their way to China, you are wrong. During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the press was given access. It is also possible that during the 2014 Naijing Youth Olympic games, access to social networking sites will be allowed. If this trend gives you hope for internet freedom in China, sorry but these occasions look more like attempts to woo foreign capital than a cause for citizens’ web freedom.
There are several instances of Chinese censorship that point out the fact that this opening of Chengdu is just a performance for the benefit of foreigners. One of them is the fact that China censored Wikipedia, which prepared a Tiananmen Square anniversary feature a few days before the start of Chengdu conference. Another one is a recent instance where the BBC accused the government of China of blocking broadcasts.
We can only hope that things will change with time.
About the author: Mila Kassar is a tech blogger and writer from London. She is interested in various topics related to mobile phones, gadgets and technology in general. Currently Mila lives in Florida, US where she enjoys in blogging, hiking and shopping. She wrote this article on behalf of Mobile Shop.