Technology

Despite The Great Firewall, Trump Continues To Tweet From China

U.S. President Donald Trump is currently in China. Apart from the political importance of Trump’s tour, one thing that is getting attention is how Trump will use Twitter in China. We all know Trump’s love for Twitter, but we also know that China’s “great firewall” blocks access to many foreign websites, including Twitter. So, there was suspense as to whether that would affect Trump’s Twitter use in China.

U.S. President Donald Trump Tweets
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U.S. President continues to tweet from China

The suspense, however, was over when the U.S. President tweeted on Wednesday, thanking Chinese president Xi Jinping for their hospitality. The President even changed his Twitter banner, posting a photo of himself and Melania with the Chinese President and his wife. So, it seems Trump has kept his habit of tweeting even in China. The question arises how Trump was able to overcome China’s “great firewall.”

Foreigners visiting the country usually use virtual private networks (VPNs) to access the content banned in China. Another way is to register for the data-roaming service before leaving their home country. However, Trump, it seems, has to do nothing of this.

Even before Trump’s arrival, China’s Vice Foreign Minister, Zheng Zeguang, confirmed to reporters that Trump would face no problem in tweeting while in China, according to the BBC. “We take everything into account on receiving foreign heads of state, so you should have no reservations about Mr President’s ability to keep in touch with the outside,” the minister said.

Also, before Trump’s arrival in Beijing on Wednesday, a White House official said, “The president will tweet whatever he wants. That’s his way of communicating directly with the American people. Why not?”

When a question was put to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, if China considers Trump’s use of Twitter a violation of its laws, she said there are many ways to communicate with the outside world, according to Fortune.

At a regular ministry briefing, she said, “In China, people have many channels to communicate, it’s just that they communicate in different ways.”

How is Trump doing it?

In South Korea, the U.S. President tweeted from his iPhone. However, in China, his first few tweets came from a web browser, and not Twitter’s iPhone app, according to Tweetdeck. This could possibly be because of security concerns. Bloomberg, citing people familiar with the matter, said that the staff traveling with Trump were asked not to use their personal phones, instead carry travel phones.

So, it appears there was some sort of arrangement between the two countries to ensure that Trump continues to tweet.

Rights groups have criticized such an approach as making exceptions. Speaking to Bloomberg, China director at Human Rights Watch, Sophie Richardson said, “If President Trump is able to tweet from China it’s because he enjoys privileges President Xi systematically denies to people across that country.”

On several occasions, China has relaxed its rules and allowed access to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, like when it hosted international summits. Bloomberg, citing director of the Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program with the Council on Foreign Relations, Adam Segal, notes that the Chinese government has allowed many high-level foreigners access to Twitter.