Ben Crox Is Back, And He Wants You To Understand China’s Great Fire Wall (Part 2/5)

28 Nov 2010 in Interviews

Let’s dive back into “the dark interview”.

The Chinese government is estimated to spend over 200 Million RMB (US $30 Million) per year on maintaining and expanding its Great Fire Wall to censor the Internet. Why? Because free expression is not allowed in China. The government fears that sites like Facebook and Twitter “will provide a platform to organize or share illicit information” (Source: Reuters). But, they allow their own version of Twitter in China (called ‘Weibo‘) because they are able to control it (I’ll end this post with some more on this).

Enter Ben Crox. I had the fortune of meeting Ben at BarCamp Singapore while I was studying abroad in Singapore earlier this year. We shot a series of interviews about the Great Fire Wall and the underground projects in China that are working for a free Internet. This is segment 2 of the 5-part series.

WHO IS BEN CROX?

Ben is an entrepreneur in Hong Kong who calls himself a ‘cyber critic’. As you’ll see in the interview, he certainly isn’t afraid of speaking his mind. He is the Principal Consultant for Web Fusion Technology Limited and is also an evangelist for Project West Chamber.

WHAT IS ‘PROJECT WEST CHAMBER’?

Project West Chamber is an underground initiative on a mission to ‘no longer be satisfied with climbing over the Great Firewall of China, but to demolish it altogether’. In other words, they want to be able to do more than simply access portals to navigate around China’s firewall temporarily. Instead, they want China to stop censoring the Internet entirely.

Ben set the stage for their mission in the first segment of my interview: “It’s Time To Demolish The Great Fire Wall of China“.

HOW GOOD IS SINA WEIBO, THE ‘TWITTER OF CHINA’?

In August 2009, China’s Sina Corporation launched a Twitter clone called Weibo. Ben talks about the microblogging service towards the end of my interview. In his opinion, it is likely that less than a year after its launch (note: this was spring 2010), Sina Weibo is already worth more than Twitter itself.

Officially, Weibo has 50 million users just 14 months after its beta launch. The users are posting 25 million updates each day. Following in Twitter’s footsteps, Weibo opened its platform to third-party applications this summer and already has more than 800. And just last week, Reuters reported that Sina Corporation announced a 2 Billion RMB (US $301 Million) fund for developers to create applications on Weibo’s open platform interface. The fund is backed by the legendary US venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, among other powerhouse VC firms in China.

I may explore Weibo in a future post. Meanwhile, stay tuned for the next three segments of my interview with Ben…coming soon!

WHAT’S NEXT?

I apologize for the dark lighting in the interview! Also, you can follow Ben Crox on Twitter here if you’d like to connect with him. Meanwhile, what do YOU think: will China ever completely stop censoring the Internet? If so, what will come first in China: a free Internet, or a more democratic form of government?