China has always been rather stringent when it comes to the Internet, and recently, the government has banned Gmail outright from the country. Previously, Gmail users utilised protocols such as IMAP, SMTP and POP3 as a workaround to access their emails. Now, however, these workarounds are no longer working.
In Google’s own Transparency Report, Gmail users from China had a huge drop in traffic from Friday onwards. “We’ve checked and there’s nothing wrong on our end,” said a Singapore-based Google spokesperson.
It’s no secret that China maintains very tight control of its Internet access, and recently, it has amped up its Great Firewall and started blocking Instagram and Viber from the country. China’s string of aggressive Internet censorship also included the ban of several Google sites such as Google+ and Google Calender before the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protest in order to discourage discussions of said protest.
With the banning of Gmail in the country, companies who has operations in China will find it difficult to communicate if they rely on Gmail. Oddly enough, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying, said that she was not made aware that the country has blocked Gmail:
China has consistently had a welcoming and supportive attitude towards foreign investors doing legitimate business here. We will, as always, provide an open, transparent and good environment for foreign companies in China.
Whichever the case may be, it seems like utilising a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service is the only method to access Gmail in the country for now.