Cloud Computing Turned into Real Estate Business in China

By Jin Ge

There have been several news reports this year that suggest cloud computing centers in China are turning into real estate development projects: local governments and financial investors used the concept to reclaim large pieces of land at low cost, obtain low-interest loans from banks and apply for government subsidy, before they have any plan for software or application. Even for a cynic like me, this sounds too bad to be true, but recently I happened to see some documents from the Chongqing government that aim to invite financial investors for its ambitious 10-square-kilometer Two River Cloud Computing Zone, and these documents appear to be invitation for financial speculation rather than technological innovation.

The first thing people should know about cloud computing in china is that it is again driven by state capitalism. Once the technocratic officials of China become aware of the concept of cloud computing, they immediately see the potential of applying their magic formula of “fixed asset investment+government subsidy+cheap loan” on it, because after all cloud computing does involve some large physical infrastructure. The story is quite similar to what happened to the concept of “Internet of Things”.

In April 2011, the government of Chongqing became the first to announce its plan to invest 40 billion yuan on a cloud computing center that will be the largest in Asia. The plan is called “Yun Duan” (Top of Cloud). Then Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen and Guangzhou all followed suit. Shanghai plans to build a “Asia Pacific Cloud Computing Center”,  its plan is called “Yun Hai” (Ocean of Cloud), Beijing has a plan called “Xiang Yun” (Cloud of Blessing), Shenzhen has a plan called “Kun Yun” (Cloud of Flying Fish), Guangzhou has a plan called “Tian Yun” (Cloud of Sky), Ningbo has “Xing Yun” (Galaxy Cloud), Wuxi has “Yun Gu” (Cloud Valley), Hangzhou has “Yun Chao Shi” (Cloud Supermarket) ……

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“The Father of the Great Firewall of China” Re-defines Internet Sovereignty

By Jin Ge

Dr. Fang Binxing,  an academician of the China Academy of Engineering who was one of the main designers of the infamous firewall confining China’s Internet, presented his new theory on Internet Sovereignty and reiterated his view on the importance of “border control” on the Internet, at a conference called “Innovation and Development of China’s Internet Forum” on November 11th.

Dr. Fang was often called “the father of China’s Great Firewall” and his unapologetic support for Internet censorship made him one of the most hated figures among pro-democracy netizens.  When he was giving a speech in Wuhan University in May this year, a student threw a shoe at him, and there was heated discussion in various pro-democracy online forums over how much damage Dr. Dang did to the Internet in China.

But this time Dr. Fang still voiced his view forcefully and presented a new theory that defines four basic components of Internet Sovereignty (full Chinese text here) The four basic components, or fundamental rights in Fang’s words, are the right of independence, the right of equality, the right of self defense and the right of jurisdiction.

Though I was quite familiar with Dr. Fang’s view, I still didn’t expect he would go so far to envision an Internet that consists solely of territories of nation-states, which can sometimes become battle fields between nation-states. In his elaboration of the right of independence, Dr. Fang envisions an Internet in China that can exist outside of the global Internet. The right of equality, as Dr. Fang describes, essentially means that the “Internets” of different nation-states can have diplomatic and business connections. In Dr. Fang’s words, “it’s just like airline traffic across borders”.

When Dr. Fang talked about the right of self-dense, his nationalistic sentiment became ever more salient. I doubt he believes in any kind of shared public interests of international communities, all he can see is a world in which nation-states compete for supremacy and self-interests. Dr. Fang compared the national rivalry of Internet to that of nuclear competition or space war, and he emphasized that we have to protect our virtual space just like what we do with our land, sea or sky territory. Dr. Fang sees so many national enemies that are just waiting for any chance to attack China’s Internet system, that he believes only an Internet of total isolation is truly capable of self defense.

Among all the mind-boggling things Dr. Fang said, what shocked me most was his explanation of the right of jurisdiction. He lamented that our Internet does not have the capability to disable a global Internet service whenever desirable. He used the example of Google and said it was a pity that although google had retreated from China but its service was still accessible in China. “It’s like the relationship between riverbed and water. Water has no nationality, but riverbeds are sovereign territories, we cannot allow polluted water from other nation-states to enter our country”, said Dr. Fang.

Dr. Fang attacking Google

I have written about how nationalism in radical forms is becoming a main obstacle for China’s opening up and political reform. When public interest can hardly justify internet censorship, nationalism becomes the foundation of a discourse of Internet sovereignty that Dr. Fang’s theory contributes to, and helps to fabricate a vision that somehow it’s in the interest of Chinese people as a nation to have an Internet that is isolated from the global Internet. I fall back into my habitual pessimism on the thought that it’s people like Dr. Fang who are in charge of constructing and supervising the Internet in China. Continue reading