With all the talk of a resolution to trade wars between the US and China, there has been little talk about liberalization of the online market. Despite physical goods trading between the two nations, the online sphere has been stifled by the lack of internet freedom in China. China has banned a range of internet services including "...Google, Facebook, Wikipedia in Chinese, Pinterest, Line (the major Japanese messaging company), Reddit and The New York Times. Even Peppa Pig, a British cartoon character and internet video sensation..." China's communist party believes that access to these sites and services would be detrimental to children's development and states these sites "[spread] unhealthy lifestyles and pop culture." Despite these claims, China continues to have an equivalent service in China such as Tencent, alibaba, WeChat, and more. These Chinese equivalent have very intrusive and controlling privacy standards and heavy integration with the state.
Why does this matter? Because though physical goods and commodities can be exchanged, large online markets like Facebook and Google cannot penetrate the Chinese market of over 1 billion people. These exclusionary practices prop up Chinese internet companies that take up a all or most of the market share in China. The result is a quasi-exclusionary "trade practice" when it comes to online services. On the other end, these services, (such as alibaba) have no issues penetrating the liberalized online market place of America. This uneven distribution poses an interesting trade question. At what point do online services fall under trade? Considering it has been increasingly difficult for WTO to come to a consensus (such as the relative failure of the current Doha round) it can be presumed it is an uphill battle to reach a conclusion on fair trade practices for online services. The future of these policies and foreign involvement in the Chinese cyber space remains to be seen.