Most internet users trying to get past China’s Great Firewall search for a cyber tunnel that will take them outside censorship restrictions to the wider web. But Vincent Brussee is looking for a way in, so he can better glimpse what life is like under the Communist Party.
An analyst with the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin, Brussee frequently scours the Chinese internet for data. His main focus is information that will help him understand China’s burgeoning social credit system. But in the last few years, he’s noticed that his usual sources have become more unreliable and access tougher to gain.
Some government websites fail to load, appearing to block users from specific geographic locations. Other platforms require a Chinese phone number tied to official identification. Files that were available three years ago have started to disappear as Brussee and many like him, including academics and journalists, are finding it increasingly frustrating to penetrate China’s cyber world from the outside.
“It’s making it more difficult to simply understand where China is headed,” Brussee said. “A lot of the work we are doing is digging for little scraps of information.”