What it Will Take to Keep Trump Tweeting From Behind China’s Great Firewall

Kiyoshi Ota/AP

While China’s massive censorship machine technically blocks Chinese citizens from using Twitter, there are ways around it.

Donald Trump embarks on a nine-day trip to Asia this weekend. It is his longest foreign trip so far as US president, and will include two days in China—behind the country’s Great Firewall. Does that mean the world is in for an extended version of his recent 11-minute Twitter time out?

Probably not.

While China’s massive censorship machine technically blocks Chinese citizens from using Twitter, there are ways around it—especially for foreigners. First of all, foreigners can sometimes access Twitter and other blocked social networks within China, just by using international hotel chains’ Wifi or because they’re roaming on a Chinese telecom network, rather than permanently registered on it.

They don’t even need to be top government officials. Here’s Paris Hilton on Twitter and Instagram in Shanghai.

Secondly, there’s a bit of a precedent set for foreign officials tweeting from China.

Barack Obama didn’t tweet from China during his September 2016 trip, although he did from Laos the day after he left. But India’s prime minister Narendra Modi not only tweeted from China, he astoundingly tweeted a selfie with premier Li Keqiang (China’s top party politicians aren’t huge on selfies.)

Trump has already expressed a fondness for Modi’s style.

And, of course, as the US president, Trump is likely to have his own channel to access Twitter. Top US government officials traveling in China rely on satellite links and secure government-issued phones, set up by the White House Communications Agency (WHCA). Air Force One, the presidential plane Trump will travel on, has satellite hookups, secure internet connections, and 85 phone lines.

“We can all agree that if some feather-ruffling domestic issue arises while Trump is in China, he’d likely be on Twitter in the time that it takes to drink a cup of tea,” Charlie Smith, a co-founder of Greatfire, which fights against Chinese censorship.

What’s more important than whether the president tweets, cyber-security experts say, is how well he and his team follow the recommendations of the WHCA and the Secret Service, which are both tasked with protecting the president and his team from cyber-attacks. Beijing has a fearsome reputation for hacking into the private communications of any foreigners traveling in China, from bankers to politicians to company heads to journalists.

If the White House delegation relies on their personal phones while they are in China, they “will definitely be compromised” predicts James Norton, a former cyber-security official in the George W. Bush administration, who now heads consulting firm Play-Action Strategies.

Most White House employees have at least two phones, and some three, that they use for varying degrees of personal and business calls. Trump generally tweets from two phones, an android and an iPhone, with his less polished tweets coming from the first.

If the officials in charge of cyber-security are ” doing it right, they’ll give everyone a phone just for this trip, and then take it back when it is over,” said Smith.

However, Trump’s been known to break security protocol before. “You may have the correct cyber training, but do you actually put it into practice?,” asked Smith. “Some people get sloppy, some people forget, some people have no choice but to expose themselves to a potential attack.”

No matter how secure any plan is that the Secret Service and the White House communications specialists come up with, “they only have so much authority,” Norton said. “They can only advise, they can’t enforce.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.