China’s Great Firewall vs. the Golden Shield Project

Chao Yu (China Internet Observer): People often hear of the GFW and the Golden Shield Project. Are there any similarities or differences between them? In fact, any kind of project is designed to accomplish certain goals for an individual or an organization. We shall explore the topic from two perspectives: organizational intention and technology concerns. From the angle of intentions, the GFW represents the will of the top CCP, a level of the standing CCP politburo, as we discussed. But the Golden Shield is a business system at the level of the Ministry of Public Security. Functionally or technically, the GFW targets surveillance-blocking. Once an abnormal incident is detected, the link involved will be cut off. Everything centers around this aim. And independently developed or produced equipment is preferred. It started with network building. Its Phase I was to establish an interconnected network, with a great number of Cisco products or solutions, and a database. To build the database, both hardware and software were needed. The former used IBM servers, and the latter, Oracle solutions, which were completed in Phase II of the Golden Shield Project. Afterwards, on the basis of this, were developed application systems. Strictly speaking, the Golden Shield Project is an internal business system within the Ministry of Public Security. Under the ministry are subordinate bureaus, including about 27 numbered ones and about 3 unnumbered ones, which engage in a variety of operations. For example, The First Bureau, whose full name is Domestic Security Bureau, has been mainly responsible for persecuting Falun Gong over the past 18 years, occasionally rights lawyers and dissidents. Another example is the Third Bureau, which is called the Security Administration. It has a wide-ranging authority over specialized sectors, migrating population, tourism and hotels, waste recycling. Why does it manage hotels? It wants to know who stays in any Chinese hotels. Its target may be a foreign journalist, an official attempting escape, or a director of a local public security bureau who stays in a Guizhou hotel with his mistress with false names, and plans to escape China from Yunnan Province. All the information comes from the security administration. Such operational needs point to a corresponding application system to serve all the systems within the administration. For instance, there’s a very important system–the China Crime Information Center (CCIC). If I work in this center, all prisoners or those deserving attention are in this CCIC database. Then, based on demographic database, it also has a facial recognition system. Again, based on the existing database and application systems, they conduct further big data, big intelligence, and data mining, which were focused on while Zhou Yongkang stayed in office. The reason why people are confused with the Golden Shield Project and the GFW is that part of the former involves online surveillance, for which the Eleventh Bureau was responsible, now called the Cyberspace Security Administration. So certain functional overlap occurs between this business and online surveillance. Both of them try to detect online what the CCP dislikes. But they differ in what actions to follow. The GFW will mislead you with a wrong address or cut off your link. However, this cyberspace security administration may send police to arrest you or conduct content-based opinion analysis or take actions. This stresses generating actionable intelligence based on information available; any action you take must not be blind but be intelligence-based. To sum up, the GFW and the Golden Shield Project differ in intentions and levels concerned as well as in technical orientations: one is for surveillance and blocking, the other for business systems based on different business bureaus.    

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