The Great Firewall, Terracotta VPN, and the Social Construction of the Chinese Internet

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With almost 722 million active users in 2016, China has become home to one of the largest and fastest growing internet communities in the world. But, due in large part to the restrictive measures by the Chinese Communist Party, much of the Chinese internet is shrouded in mystery in the Western imagination. This paper seeks to provide a more nuanced understanding of the contributions that different actors, benign and malicious, state-sponsored and civilian, make to the complete Chinese internet. Using the Social Construction of Technology theory supported by Weibe Bijker and Trevor Pinch, this paper presents a coherent analysis on the different social facets of the Chinese internet and concludes that "there’s nothing technologically different about internet behind the Great Firewall", and that instead it is the actions and motivations of the wide variety of actors within Chinese cyberspace that make the Chinese internet a uniquely constructed technology.