Cisco internal memo: Chinese censorship and surveillance are "opportunities"

Wired's Threat Level has a leaked Cisco document discussing the great "opportunities" inherent in supplying censorship and surveillance technology to China.

The 90-page document is an internal presentation that Cisco engineers and staffers in China mulled over in 2002 as the central government was upgrading its local, state and provincial public safety and security network infrastructure. Under the category "Cisco Opportunities," the document provides bullet point suggestions for how it might service China's censorship system called the "Golden Shield", and better known in the West as the Great Firewall of China.

The document is the first evidence that the networking giant has marketed its routers to China specifically as a tool of repression. It reinforces the double-edged role that Americans' technological ingenuity plays in the rest of the world. Companies including Cisco, Yahoo, Microsoft and Google have faced criticism for cooperating to various degrees with the repressive Chinese regime, and the document leak on Monday came one day before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing into U.S. technology companies' participation in foreign government censorship programs.

Link (Thanks, W&W)


  1. OMG! Is that a real presentation picture from Cisco? Does that really say: “Combat “Falung Gong” evil religion and other hostiles.” ???
    That is wrong on so many levels.
    Do you realize that the Peoples Republic of China has a habit of harvesting the organs of captured Falung Gong members while they are still alive (get them as fresh as you can), right before they get executed?!

  2. Correct if I’m wrong, but isn’t it true that after Tienanmen Square, it was made illegal for a US company to obtain a contract to help China with any kind of “police” activity?

  3. Oooh, a “Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing”! Bet those guys at Cisco, Yahoo et al are shakin’ in their boots!

  4. Golly, I sure am glad that we’re safe from the encroaching techno-slave state here in the good ol’ U S of A.

  5. Same sentiment here in the UK Kibble – nothing to worry about from our media-whipped politicians thank goodness.

  6. I read somewhere that Cisco is claiming that this was a low-level Chinese employee who wrote this, and they then proceeded to cut the rug out from under him. “This is not Cisco policy,” blah blah.

  7. Two days ago in a completely unrelated conversation before this had come out, my friend who works at Cisco was explaining to me how, at Cisco, they use Powerpoint Presentations for large amounts of documentation. His frustration in particular was that instead of using the wiki which had been set up for the project to make the documentation both available and editable, people would either email him 20M powerpoint files or simply add the powerpoint file to the wiki (rather than the contents).

    As such, I don’t think that we should assume that this presentation is necessarily a big statement of Cisco policy. Even more so since at the bottom of the slide it says “[Note: Statement of Government goals from speech government official Li Runsen]”. That would seem to indicate that they were merely documenting what someone else said, not necessarily agreeing with it.

    Also, if you read the document, it’s mostly about Cisco selling equipment to the police and public security groups for their internal network. Although “golden shield” is generally the name given to the great firewall of China, very little in that presentation can be read as talking about monitoring or censoring the internet. It seems to be more focussed on securing public security’s internal networks. It may even be that the person who put the presentation together misunderstood what China was aiming to do.

    All in all, this seems like a lot of worry over what doesn’t actually seem like very much. I think that we should look at who sold equipment and support to the Chinese government rather than just looking at one page of long and poorly written presentation out of context.

  8. That would seem to indicate that they were merely documenting what someone else said, not necessarily agreeing with it.

    That’s kind of the idea. They’re cheerfully selling technology that’s going to be used for repression without the slightest care about the consequences.

  9. Given the owner of an apartment I was renting, “Danny boy” as we called him, was a senior software software engineer, was a greedy scumbag and had no clue that he was, I would tend to believe that this is Cisco’s corporate culture.

  10. well, US business has a long and proud history of jumoping into bed with the bad guys.

    Like supplying Nazi Germany.

    Thanks for that Blind US Capitalism, gee this free market thingy sure is neat, and amoral.

  11. While instinctively I deplore the oppressive and brutal nature of the Chinese government, as a gay man you’ll have to pardon me if I have reservations about Falun Gong which holds that homosexuals are giving into their demonic nature and are responsible for the fall of Greek culture, and along with organized crime and drugs are to blame for society’s ills today. That and their being against racial miscegenation and believing intelligent entities from other dimensions are the cause of illness means I can’t fully get behind them either.
    It can be an awkward position to hold that freedom is a higher good even when it’s the freedom to be bat-shit crazy.

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