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Confusion emerges surrounding Internet freedom and China’s new free-trade zone

The intricacies of Internet freedom in China are growing even more unclear as the country opens a new "free-trade" zone in Shanghai.

China's recent economic growth, paired with its strict regulation of the social freedoms of its citizens has been the subject of much talk and speculation. One of the biggest controversies surrounding the country has been the "Great Firewall of China," which restricts Internet users to certain sites. Among the blocked sites include Facebook, YouTube and the New York Times.

However, China's economy has been expanding at rapid rates as a variety of industries have taken off throughout the country. As the expansion continues, the country is looking to have its capital rival other financial powerhouses like London and New York.

The free-trade zone
The Independent reports that in efforts to help achieve this goal, the government has set up a nearly 30 square kilometer zone in which a number of economic "experiments" will be conducted. This includes removing bank interest rates and an expansion of financial services offered. On top of this, it will serve as a testing ground for the trading currency, which currently cannot be done at the moment.

Another one of the reported changes that will occur in the zone itself is the removal of China's Great Firewall so that businesses may capitalize on the resources many of these banned sites offer. Facebook, for example, can give a company access to a wealth of different potential customers throughout the globe.

Free or not?
While some initial reports, such as the Independent's indicate that the Internet would be open in the zone, Radio Free Asia reports that government sources are now saying this will not be the case.

The South China Morning Post initially said that the internet would be free, though official sources have since said that this would not be true. The People's Daily, a government owned publication, explained that this story was in fact a case of bad judgment.

Radio Free Asia explains that this news comes as the government has said that it would crack down on the spreading of rumors if an untrue or defaming post was viewed at least 5,000 times or reposted 500 times.

This latest confusion surrounding Internet freedom in China only further highlights the complications of web access in the country as it struggles to maintain its economic growth while limiting personal liberties.

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