(SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS REPORTER, JANE LANHEE LEE, SAYING:

"This area behind me may not look like much - but it could be the first big crack in the great firewall of China."

Beijing has long blocked popular social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter, and occasionally publications like New York Times...

(SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS REPORTER, JANE LANHEE LEE, SAYING:

"...for fear they could stoke social unrest."

Now, according to an unconfirmed report in Hong Kong's South China Morning Post, Internet users will be able to freely surf all the websites in a new free trade zone in Shanghai, expected to launch soon.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS REPORTER, JANE LANHEE LEE, SAYING:

"Behind me is the Waigaoqiao bonded zone, it's expected to be one part of this free trade zone."

Facebook declined to comment on the report, and there are still no rules about how the free trade zone will work.

But if the ban on the internet is lifted, and as rumored companies will be able to freely trade Chinese currency, then this area is going to start to feel a lot different from the rest of China.

There's gonna a lot of buzz about this Shanghai new free trade zone, but several foreign company executives I've spoken to are skeptical about how much things will really open up.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS REPORTER, JANE LANHEE LEE, SAYING:

"Also, opening up the great firewall of China in one zone is unlikely to have that big of an impact. In hotels or conference centers around China where there are a lot of foreign guests..."

...the sites like Facebook and Twitter are already accessible and people buy VPN services to be able to surf the net freely.

China also has its own homegrown microblogging service such as Weibo, which is quite popular already.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS REPORTER, JANE LANHEE LEE, SAYING:

"Then there's the fact that this place is about an hour from downtown Shanghai. So you know what? I'm going to keep paying my $10 a month to get my VPN service so I can keep in touch with friends and families all over the world no matter where I am.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS REPORTER, JANE LANHEE LEE, SAYING:

This is Jane Lanhee Lee in Shanghai for Reuters."

ENDS

 

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