China wants to ban VPNs in 2018 strengthening its ‘Great Firewall’

The Chinese government has reportedly ordered telecoms companies to outright ban the use of VPNs in the country as of next year.

According to Bloomberg, which has the usual inside sources – who asked not to be named for talking about ‘private directives’ – the government has ordered the three main state-run telecoms outfits (including China Mobile) to block all access to VPNs with a deadline of the beginning of February 2018.

That’s obviously something of a killer blow for those who are looking to circumvent the country’s so-called Great Firewall, in order to access the global web at large (and sites such as Facebook). A VPN connection was one of the main routes to bypassing government censorship.

This particular screw was already being tightened earlier this month, with the recent news that a popular Chinese VPN company, GreenVPN, had been closed down by the authorities.

Of course, we can’t be sure that this total ban will actually go ahead, as this is still effectively speculation at this point. But if it does, it’ll be very interesting to see whether Chinese authorities are targeting individual users, or will also block businesses from accessing VPNs.

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Business fallout

If the latter, that could be damaging to China in terms of organisations being put off basing their operations in a country where they’re are unable to access the worldwide web, or services provided by it.

Jake Parker, VP of the US-China Business Council, told Bloomberg that: “VPNs are incredibly important for companies trying to access global services outside of China.”

He added: “In the past, any effort to cut off internal corporate VPNs has been enough to make a company think about closing or reducing operations in China. It’s that big a deal.”

We’ll just have to see how this one unfolds. Meanwhile, if you are visiting the country in the near future, you might want to take a look at our roundup of best VPNs for China. Although come next year, there may be no VPNs – best or otherwise – operating in China.

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).