Timeline of Chinese web censorship and cyber attacks
China hijacked 15pc of the world's internet traffic in April, a US report has disclosed. Here is a timeline of the superpower's history of cyber attacks and web censorship.
The Chinese government grants licenses to open Internet cafe chains to just 10 firms, including three affiliated to the Ministry of Culture, one linked to the politically powerful Central Committee of China Youth League and six state-owned telecoms operators.
China purchases over 200 routers from an American company, Cisco Systems, that allow the government more sophisticated technological censoring capabilities.
In October, the government blocks access to Wikipedia.
In January, a group of former senior Communist party officials in China criticise the internet censorship, warning that it could "sow the seeds of disaster" for China's political transition.
In February, Google agrees to block websites which the Chinese Government deems illegal in exchange for a licence to operate on Chinese soil. The search engine responds to international criticism by protesting that it has to obey local laws.
In May, Chinese internet users encountere difficulties when connecting to Hotmail, Microsoft’s popular email service. Microsoft says the break in service is caused by technical problems, but there is widespread speculation that the incident is linked to state censorship. In the last week of May, Google and many of its services also became unreachable.
In July, researchers at Cambridge University claim to have broken through the Great Firewall of China - the government imposed blocks on large portions of the web.
In November, the Chinese language version of Wikipedia is briefly unblocked before being shut down again the same month.
In January, Hu Jintao, the Chinese president, pledges to "purify" the Internet. He makes no specific mention of censorship, saying China needs to "strengthen administration and development of our country's Internet culture."
In March, access to the LiveJournal, Xanga, Blogger and Blogspot blogging services from within China become blocked. Blogger and Blogspot become accessible again later the same month.
In June, American military figures warn that China is gearing up to launch a cyber war on the US and plans to hack into US networks to glean trade and defence secrets.
In April, MI5 writes to more than 300 senior executives at banks, accountants and legal firms warning them that the Chinese army is using internet spyware to steal confidential information.
In June, Hu Jintao, the Chinese president, makes his first tentative steps online by answering questions on a web forum.
In August, China faces widespread criticism for internet censorship in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics. The government surprises critics by lifting some of the restrictions, making the websites of human rights organisations such as Amnesty International accessible for the first time.
In March, Bill Gates weighs into the internet censorship row, declaring that “Chinese efforts to censor the internet have been very limited” and that the Great Firewall of China is "easy to go around". His comments are met with scorn by commentators on the web.
The same month, the government blocks the video-sharing website YouTube after footage appearing to show police beating Tibetan monks is posted on the site.
In June, China imposes an information black-out in the lead up to the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, blocking access to networking sites such as Twitter as well as BBC television reports.
The same month, China faces a storm of criticism over plans to force all computer users to install Green Dam internet monitoring software. The plan is dropped in August.
Lord West, the British security minister, warns that Britain faces the threat of a "cyber cold war" with China amid fears that hackers could gain the technology to shut down the computer systems that control Britain’s power stations, water companies, air traffic, government and financial markets.
In August, the US Government begins covertly testing technology to allow people in China and Iran to bypass internet censorship firewalls set up by their own governments.
In December, the government offers rewards of up to 10,000 yuan (€1,100) to users who report websites featuring pornography. The number of pornographic searches rockets.
In January, China announces plans to force its 400 million internet users to register their real names before making comments on the country's many chat rooms and discussion forums.
Around 5,000 people are arrested for viewing internet pornography and 9,000 websites are deleted for containing sexual images and other "harmful information".
The same month, Google threatens to pull out of China if it is not allowed to operate without censorship. The search engine blames the government for "highly sophisticated" attacks on its servers and attempts to target the Gmail accounts of human rights activists.
The government responds by saying internet companies have a "major responsibility" to help maintain "social stability and harmony" by "guiding" public opinion. It denies any part in the cyber attacks.
In March, Google shuts down its China-based search engine and redirects users to an uncensored site based in Hong Kong.
In April, a Chinese state-owned telecommunications firm "hijacks" 15pc of the world's internet traffic, including highly sensitive US government and military exchanges, raising security fears.
In June, the government restricts access to Foursquare after players used the geolocation service to draw attention to the 21st anniversary of the Tianamen Square massacre.
In July, Google stops automatically redirecting users of its Chinese search engine to its Hong Kong site, but continues to allow users to access the uncensored search engine by clicking a separate tab. The following week, the row between the search giant and the superpower seems to have drawn to a close as the government a renews Google's licence to operate its business in China.
In November, a security report to the US Congress warns that the hijacking of 15pc of the world's internet traffic by a Chinese telecommunications firm may have been "malicious".