Dropbox has renewed access to the Chinese market for the first time in four years.
The Chinese government first blocked access to Dropbox in 2010, most likely to prevent people within China from sharing data via the cloud. In the interim, according to TechCrunch, a number of cloud-storage services have launched within the country. (Google Drive remains banned.)
Now Dropbox is back online in China, albeit at slower speeds. “We noticed it was accessible in the country late last week, and then we waited a few days to verify it wasn’t a freak result and also to check that it’s available throughout the country,” Tech in Asia reported. “In addition to personal cloud syncing, we’ve also verified that sharing files publicly via Dropbox now works in the country.”
Despite repeated queries from Slashdot, however, Dropbox has declined to comment on why China may have dropped the in-country restrictions to its services. “We still have nothing to share,” the company responded after the third email.
Dropbox isn’t the only foreign cloud service available on the Chinese market: in late 2013, Amazon announced it would open an Amazon Web Services (AWS) region in the country; available services included Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Simple Storage Service (S3), DynamoDB, Glacier, and Simple Workflow (SWF), among many others.
At the time, the Amazon Web Services Blog alluded to the “legal and regulatory requirements” that this new AWS region will obey. “Our business model will be slightly different here than in the other AWS Regions,” it stated. “You will need to create an AWS account that is specific to the Region.”
U.S. technology companies have a convoluted relationship with the Chinese government, which remains determined to filter and monitor the country’s Internet content. Facebook hasn’t yet worked out a satisfactory deal to enter China, for example, and Google has repeatedly accused the Chinese government of attempting to hack its systems (something PRC officials have denied). At the same time, U.S. firms have profited immensely from dealings with China—for example, Yahoo draws quite a bit of revenue from its interest in Alibaba, a Web portal and e-commerce hub based in Hangzhou.
So questions remain: Did Dropbox know it would regain entry to the Chinese market? If so, did it need to agree to certain conditions before the Chinese government would “flip the switch,” as it were?