Gmail is one of many Google services to be severely restricted by Chinese regulators.
And you can’t see Google ()search results or YouTube videos in China.
Google has for years engaged in a running battle with Beijing over censorship. In 2010, Google redirected search traffic from mainland China to its uncensored Hong Kong arm and largely pulled out of the market. The relationship has improved little since then.
Determined users can still access Gmail through a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which masks the origin of web traffic. But even those efforts can at times be disrupted by the Great Firewall.
China turned out the lights on Facebook () in 2009, and there are no signs that Beijing plans to restore access to the U.S.-based social media platform.
Some analysts trace the ban to riots that broke out in July of that year between Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese in the northwestern province of Xinjiang.
Founder Mark Zuckerberg has visited China a number of times — even shaking hands with President Xi Jinping — but Beijing hasn’t reversed course.
Chinese users are unable to access Snapchat, as well.
Keeping western firms out has given Chinese tech companies ample time to develop their own networks.
It’s a protectionist commercial tactic that has paid dividends. Microblogging service Weibo is popular, and various domestic messaging apps have flourished.
Still, these platforms are heavily censored. That has even included blocking money transfers with numbers that refer to sensitive dates, like the crackdown on Tiananmen Square protestors on June 4, 1989.
A Harvard study estimated that as many as 488 million social media posts are fabricated by the Chinese government each year in an effort to distract attention from sensitive issues.
Pinterest was freely accessible in China for years — which makes sense, because its users typically don’t share content that would rattle Chinese censors. Folks on Pinterest usually “pin” items of interest to a board, such as images and tips on home decor, hair styles, cooking, weddings and fashion.
The Pinterest block started in March 2017, according to watchdog group Greatfire.org, which monitors censorship and accessibility of websites in China.
Like the crackdown on Snapchat, banning Pinterest may be more about protectionism than politics. Several Pinterest copycats have popped up, including one from tech giant Alibaba ().
Beijing blocks access to thousands of websites at any given time, including those that host pornography.
Censors also prohibit Internet users from visiting many sites that criticize the Communist Party or address sensitive issues such as human rights.
Search results are also censored. Internet users are often forced to come up with clever alternate language to discuss news or historical events like the Tiananmen Square protests and crackdown.
Chinese regulators allow only 34 foreign films to be shown in theaters each year, severely limiting access to the latest Hollywood blockbusters.
Approved films still face the heavy hand of government censors, who cut anything the Communist Party considers offensive or subversive.
Chinese audiences love the slimmed-down foreign films, and Hollywood is eager for regulators to expand its quota.
Despite the commercial advantage it gives them, Chinese filmmakers are likely to continue to bump heads with Beijing over censorship.
China heaped praise on Taiwan-born director Ang Lee when he won the Academy Award for Best Director in 2005. But his film, Brokeback Mountain, was never shown in China.
Meanwhile, China has been building up its domestic entertainment industry. Tech giant Alibaba (), for example, has its own movie production arm.
E-books and videos
Another front in Beijing’s censorship campaign is foreign digital content.
Apple’s iBooks and iTunes Movies offerings and a Disney video-streaming service have both been shut down.
They appear to have run afoul of new rules requiring government approval for foreign companies wanting to provide online content like videos, games and books.
Experts say the regulations in large part reflect what the authorities were already doing, but they are vaguely worded, allowing officials a lot of room for interpretation.
Beijing outlawed gambling in 1949, and casinos are not allowed to operate in China. Yet many Chinese have an inclination toward games of chance, a tradition that dates back thousands of years.
Today, the blanket ban doesn’t stop entrepreneurial Chinese from setting up underground gambling operations and private lotteries.
The policy has also given rise to a ring of casinos that operate just outside mainland China. The most notable of these is in the territory of Macau, which boasts a casino industry that is several times larger than that of Las Vegas.
But gambling in Macau has taken a hit from the Chinese government’s sweeping anti-corruption campaign. Casinos’ gaming revenues have tumbled, dealing a heavy blow to the rest of the territory’s economy.
China’s General Administration of Press and Publication screens all books before publication in China, and censorship is standard procedure.
Critical talk regarding human rights, Tibet or the Communist Party is off limits. Reporting on the wealth of Chinese officials is also forbidden.
Publishers that skirt the rules are quickly shut down, leaving authors with a choice: Agree to censorship or forfeit access to 1.4 billion potential readers.
Controversial books are often smuggled into mainland China from other jurisdictions including Hong Kong. But the recent disappearances of several people connected to a Hong Kong publisher that sold gossipy titles about Chinese leaders sent a chill through the industry.
The missing booksellers later showed up in mainland China.