China Has Blocked Gmail, Could Force Users Outside China To Switch Services

Amanda Lager - Author
By

Dec. 30 2014, Updated 7:30 a.m. ET

Google’s popular web-based email program Gmail has been blocked in China. Reports indicate that this is a move by the Chinese government to further weaken Google’s power within the country.

GreatFire.org, which is a freedom of speech advocacy group based in China, says that services to Gmail have been blocked since December 26, according to Reuters. Google also reports that traffic from China to Gmail greatly reduced on Friday.

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Most of Google’s services have been severely restricted in China since June. However, most Chinese citizens could still access Gmail if emails were downloaded using IMAP, SMTP, and POP3 protocols. Apps like Apple iPhone’s Mail and Microsoft Outlook still let users access Gmail. The disruptions in service coincided with 25th anniversary of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square incident, during which the government shut down pro-democracy demonstrators on June 4, 1989.

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Even the US State Department expressed concern over China’s blocked access to Gmail. Jeff Rathke speaking on behalf of the State Department encouraged the country to consider how this may affect more than just Chinese citizens.

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“We encourage China to be transparent in its dealings with international companies and to consider the market signal it sends with such acts.”

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In fact, the Washington Post reports that blocking Gmail in China could affect people outside of that country. The representative from GreatFire.org says that the block could affect business transactions if the program users are unable to effectively work with their Chinese counterparts.

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“I think the government is just trying to further eliminate Google’s presence in China and even weaken its market overseas. Imagine if Gmail users might not get through to Chinese clients. Many people outside China might be forced to switch away from Gmail.”

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A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry says that they knew nothing about the block.

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“China has consistently had a welcoming and supportive attitude towards foreign investors doing legitimate business here. We will, as always, provide an open, transparent and good environment for foreign companies in China.”

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China has previously attempted to block Google within its boundaries, as covered by the Inquisitr. In 2012, access to programs by the internet behemoth was shut down within the country ahead of Communist Party elections. Services including Gmail, Maps, Google Docs, and the Play store were all restricted before elections. Then, the Chinese could access those applications if they used a server outside of China.

Now, it seems, Google’s domination of the internet has been chipped away at, potentially affecting users worldwide.

[Photo Source: RegularInternet.com]

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