Golden Shield Project

The Golden Shield Project (Chinese: 金盾工程; pinyin: jīndùn gōngchéng), also named National Public Security Work Informational Project,[a] is the Chinese nationwide network-security fundamental constructional project by the e-government of the People's Republic of China. This project includes a security management information system, a criminal information system, an exit and entry administration information system, a supervisor information system, a traffic management information system, among others.[1]

The Golden Shield Project is one of the 12 important "golden" projects. The other "golden" projects are Golden Bridges (for public economic information),[b] Golden Customs (for foreign trades),[c] Golden Card (for electronic currencies),[d] Golden Finance (for financial management),[e] Golden Agriculture (for agricultural information),[f] Golden Taxation (for taxation),[g] Golden Water (for water conservancy information)[h] and Golden Quality (for quality supervision).[i][2]

The Golden Shield Project also manages the Bureau of Public Information and Network Security Supervision,[j] which is a bureau that is widely believed, though not officially claimed, to operate a subproject called the Great Firewall of China (GFW)[k][3] which is a censorship and surveillance project that blocks politically inconvenient incoming data from foreign countries. It is operated by the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) of the government of China. This subproject was initiated in 1998 and began operations in November 2003.[4] It has also seemingly been used to attack international web sites using Man-on-the-side DDoS, for example GitHub on 2015/03/28.[5]

The political and ideological background of the Golden Shield Project is considered to be one of Deng Xiaoping's favorite sayings in the early 1980s: "If you open the window for fresh air, you have to expect some flies to blow in."[l] The saying is related to a period of economic reform in China that became known as the "socialist market economy". Superseding the political ideologies of the Cultural Revolution, the reform led China towards a market economy and opened up the market for foreign investors. Nonetheless, despite the economic freedom, values and political ideas of the Communist Party of China have had to be protected by "swatting flies" of other unwanted ideologies.[6]

The Internet in China arrived in 1994,[7] as the inevitable consequence of and supporting tool for the "socialist market economy". As availability of the Internet has gradually increased, it has become a common communication platform and tool for trading information.

The Ministry of Public Security took initial steps to control Internet use in 1997, when it issued comprehensive regulations governing its use. The key sections, Articles 4–6, are the following:

Individuals are prohibited from using the Internet to: harm national security; disclose state secrets; or injure the interests of the state or society. Users are prohibited from using the Internet to create, replicate, retrieve, or transmit information that incites resistance to the PRC Constitution, laws, or administrative regulations; promotes the overthrow of the government or socialist system; undermines national unification; distorts the truth, spreads rumors, or destroys social order; or provides sexually suggestive material or encourages gambling, violence, or murder. Users are prohibited from engaging in activities that harm the security of computer information networks and from using networks or changing network resources without prior approval.[8]

In 1998, the Communist Party of China feared that the China Democracy Party (CDP) would breed a powerful new network that the party elites might not be able to control.[9] The CDP was immediately banned, followed by arrests and imprisonment.[10] That same year, the Golden Shield project was started. The first part of the project lasted eight years and was completed in 2006. The second part began in 2006 and ended in 2008. On 6 December 2002, 300 people in charge of the Golden Shield project from 31 provinces and cities throughout China participated in a four-day inaugural "Comprehensive Exhibition on Chinese Information System".[11] At the exhibition, many western high-tech products, including Internet security, video monitoring and human face recognition were purchased. It is estimated that around 30,000-50,000 police are employed in this gigantic project.[12]

A subsystem of the Golden Shield has been nicknamed "the Great Firewall" (防火长城) (a term that first appeared in a Wired magazine article in 1997)[13] in reference to its role as a network firewall and to the ancient Great Wall of China. This part of the project includes the ability to block content by preventing IP addresses from being routed through and consists of standard firewalls and proxy servers at the six[14] Internet gateways. The system also selectively engages in DNS cache poisoning when particular sites are requested. The government does not appear to be systematically examining Internet content, as this appears to be technically impractical.[15] Because of its disconnection from the larger world of IP routing protocols, the network contained within the Great Firewall has been described as "the Chinese autonomous routing domain".[16]

During the 2008 Summer Olympics, Chinese officials told Internet providers to prepare to unblock access from certain Internet cafés, access jacks in hotel rooms and conference centers where foreigners were expected to work or stay.[17]

The Golden Shield Project contains an integrated, multi-layered system, involving technical, administrative, public security, national security, publicity and many other departments. This project was planning to finish within five years, separated into two phases.

The first phase of the project focused on the construction of the first-level, second-level, and the third-level information communication network, application database, shared platform, etc. The period was three years.

According to the Xinhua News Agency, since September 2003, the Public Security department of China has recorded 96% of the population information of mainland China into the database. In other words, the information of 1.25 billion out of 1.3 billion people has recorded in the information database of the Public Security department of China.[18] Within three years, phase I project has finished the first-level, second-level, and the third-level backbone network and access network. This network has covered public security organs at all levels. The grass-roots teams of public security organs have accessed to the backbone network with the coverage rate 90%, that is to say, every 100 police officers have 40 computers connected to the network of the phase I project. The said that the phase I project had significantly enhanced the combat effectiveness of public security.

Members participated in the phase I project include Tsinghua University from China, and some high-tech companies from the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Israel, etc. Cisco Systems from the United States of America has provided massive hardware devices for this project, and therefore was criticized by some members of the United States Congress.[19]

According to China Central Television, phase I cost 6.4 billion yuan. On 6 December 2002, there came the "2002 China Large Institutions Informationization Exhibition", 300 leaders from the and from other public security bureaus of 31 provinces or municipalities attended the exhibition. There were many western high-tech products, including network security, video surveillance and face recognition.[20] It was estimated that about 30000 police officers have been employed to maintain the system. There was a multi-level system to track netizens violating the provisions. Netizens who want to use the internet in a cybercafé are required to show their Resident Identity Cards. If some violating event happened, the owner of the cybercafé can send the personal information to the police through the internet. It is called a public security automation system, but it is actually an integrated, multi-layered, internet blocking and monitoring system, involving the technical, administrative, public security, national security, publicity, etc. The features are known as: readable, listenable, and thinkable.

The phase II project started in 2006. The main task was to enhance the terminal construction, and the public security business application system, trying to informatize of the public security work. The period was two years.[21]

Based on the phase I project, phase II project expanded the information application types of public security business, and informationized further public security information. The key points of this project included application system construction, system integration, the expansion of information centre, and information construction in central and western provinces. The system of was planning to strengthen the integration, to share and analysis of information. It would greatly enhance the information for the public security work support.[21]

Mainland Chinese Internet censorship programs have censored Web sites that include (among other things):

Blocked web sites are indexed to a lesser degree, if at all, by some Chinese search engines. This sometimes has considerable impact on search results.[23]

According to The New York Times, Google has set up computer systems inside China that try to access Web sites outside the country. If a site is inaccessible, then it is added to Google China's blacklist.[24] However, once unblocked, the Web sites will be reindexed. Referring to Google's first-hand experience of the great firewall, there is some hope in the international community that it will reveal some of its secrets. Simon Davies, founder of London-based pressure group Privacy International, is now challenging Google to reveal the technology it once used at China's behest. "That way, we can understand the nature of the beast and, perhaps, develop circumvention measures so there can be an opening up of communications." "That would be a dossier of extraordinary importance to human rights," Davies says. Google has yet to respond to his call.[25]

Because the Great Firewall blocks destination IP addresses and domain names and inspects the data being sent or received, a basic censorship circumvention strategy is to use proxy nodes and encrypt the data. Most circumvention tools combine these two mechanisms.[26]

Reporters Without Borders suspects that countries such as Cuba, Vietnam, Zimbabwe and Belarus have obtained surveillance technology from China although the censorships in these countries are not much in comparison to China.[29]

The Golden Shield Project is distinct from the Great Firewall (GFW), which has a different mission. The differences are listed below:

This audio file was created from a revision of this article dated 13 July 2010 (), and does not reflect subsequent edits.