• A man surfs the Internet on his laptop at a cafe in China.

A man surfs the Internet on his laptop at a cafe in China. (Photo : Reuters)

Although the recent VPN issue regarding China has led to further discussion of Beijing's democratic credentials, the topic is by no means new.

The Chinese government, which is involved in an ongoing process to regulate the online realm, was suspected of interfering with VPNs in 2011, as Chinese users attempting to evade the official firewall encountered difficulties with sites such as Google and MSN. On that occasion, a number of universities and businesses ended up instructing their users to avoid VPNs altogether.

Like Us on Facebook

Beyond the history that exists, the use of "virtual private networks"--and corresponding issues--is not confined to the eastern Asian nation. Reports were published in early January about Australian-based consumers who thought that Netflix was interfering with VPN users. Although Netflix denied the claims, and USA Today reported on a number of myths that arose during the period.

The complicated terrain of the online world--on which revenue concerns, individual liberty, political ideology, legislation and corporate rights constantly come into conflict--is an ongoing problem that the entire world is dealing with.

As Wen Dao wrote on the Global Times on Tuesday:

"Cyberspace is a virgin land where freedom can spiral out of control. Regulation is badly needed as various countries are striving to manage the Internet in the way that best suits their own country . . . it is a natural response from each government to . . . set up limits for information communication."

Wen then uses the U.S.-based Facebook as a key example, as it bans accounts that it deems "inappropriate." The Global Times writer finds the criticisms directed at the Chinese government this week, many of which have come from the West, "wholly unconvincing," and it seems he might have a solid foundation to stand upon.

Wen fairly refers to both Alibaba and Baidu--both are Internet-based and have become key players on the global stage. Furthermore, Alibaba's online marketplace generates more revenue than Amazon and eBay combined!

According to Wen, "China is becoming more associated with the outside world" and, while the rest of the world points fingers at Beijing, billionaires like Jack Ma are asserting a growing presence across the entire online economy.