Who bypasses the Great Firewall in China?

Keywords: the Great Firewall, Internet censorship, China, digital divide, capital-enhancing, inequality


The blockage of foreign Web sites, which is often called the “Great Firewall (GFW)”, serves an important part of the Internet censorship in mainland China. This study investigated the inequality of bypassing the GFW in mainland China, and the possible difference in some “capital-enhancing” uses of the Internet (using the Internet for work, learning and political expression) between GFW-bypassing netizens and those still suffer from strict Internet censorship. This study used data from the China Family Panel Studies (CFPS). Although there is no direct measurement of netizens’ GFW bypassing, a variable measuring the ownership of Facebook accounts was used as a proxy of the status of GFW bypassing. Firstly, the results of bivariate analyses and multiple correspondence analysis (MCA) suggest that mainland Chinese netizens who can bypass Internet censorship and access blocked foreign Web sites are more socio-economically better off (higher social class, well-educated and urban residing) and younger. Moreover, the results of ordinary least squares (OLS) regression and logistic regression models tell that in general bypassing the GFW is related to more activeness in using the Internet for learning and political expression. After controlling socio-economic and demographic characteristics, GFW bypassing is no longer found to be related to online learning, but is still related to an expression of political views online.

Author Biography

Chong Zhang, Department of sociology, Durham University

PhD researcher at Department of sociology

How to Cite
Zhang, C. (2020). Who bypasses the Great Firewall in China?. First Monday, 25(4). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v25i4.10256