More on Cisco and the Great Firewall


Via two days ago, an astonishing and apparently legit internal document from Cisco back in 2002, when it was preparing to sell the Chinese government the routers that were initially necessary to make the "Great Firewall" system of internet censorship work. (My Atlantic article on how the Firewall works here; also, followup interviews with Network World and For the record, the official name for the firewall and related systems is not the Great Firewall but the "Golden Shield" project.)

The "To Be Sure" section:
- Cisco has always claimed, and this document supports, that it didn't tailor any of its products particularly to the Chinese government's needs. Its normal product just happened to be what the government wanted;

- Whatever Cisco did or did not do six years ago, China no longer needs any outsider's help to make the system go. As I point out in my article, China's own companies, notably Huawei, can provide everything the government requires;

- There was never very much money involved. (According to Wired, $100,000 - could it really have been so little???);

- A Cisco official told Wired that he was "appalled" and "disappointed" at what the document showed.

Still: pages 48-58 of this PDF presentation seem to remove any doubt that Cisco knew, at the time, exactly what China had in mind with the "Golden Shield" program -- and viewed it as a great business opportunity.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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