Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Behind The Great Firewall/Golden Shield Project

Although I have access to the Internet at hotels in China it's not the Internet that I know back home, it's the Internet with Chinese characteristics. Before coming to China I had read that Gmail and anything Google are banned and unavailable, along with the NY Times, the Wall Street Journal, Wikipedia and Facebook but I'm finding that Gmail is hit and miss (anything Google is mostly a miss). I found something that gets our rooted phones around the Great Firewall and I've been remoting into my PC back home for access to Gmail and Google anything else but it's still a pain in the ass and that's probably the point. Besides, remoting into a PC in another country isn't an option for Chinese citizens

While I truly enjoy sticking to the man and thumbing my nose to his Great Firewall it's ultimately wearing me down. At times my link to my PC back home slows to a crawl and I can wait 15 seconds for the screen refresh of a map to reach me here in China. But strangely enough my US phone number rings through to me here when I'm on WiFi at no cost to me and as long as I'm on WiFi I can place and receive phone calls as if I were at home. And most of the connections have been excellent.

The secret to using the Chinese Internet seems to be in staying away from anything from Google just the way the Chinese government wants me to. That means giving up Google Chrome too. Internet Explorer with Bing comes right up in Chinese and offers the option of English. Bing's local maps come up in Chinese only and can't seem to find my hotel or anywhere I want to go so Bing Maps is useless. Google's maps can find my hotel but can be wildly inaccurate.

Bing's Web searches are quick and government sanitized for my protection. Websites from the US that are Great Firewall approved are slow but they work. A Bing search for the NY Times shows links to various sections of the newspaper but clicking on them delivers a message that says, “The Page Cannot Be Displayed” and implies a connection problem, but not the censorship problem that caused it. That way the user never knows whether the problem is an undersea cable break or censorship and rather than dwell on something that can't be known most users will just go on to something else that works. This is China and you can't fight the Forbidden City Hall. The Internet can be a frustration if you insist on using it in a way that is not government approved.

So I use Gmail, read the NY Times, the Wall Street Journal and my wife uses Facebook here in China. Am I scared of a visit from the Chinese Public Security Bureau? No. Why should they waste their time on me? This isn't North Korea. I'm reading my forbidden websites in English and I know no Mandarin to tell people what I've read. I can't tell anyone what I've read even if I wanted to and in a few weeks I'll be safely out of the country so why should the Chinese fret about me? Besides, the Chinese make allowances for tourists. CNN, HBO, NHK and Newschannel Asia are forbidden for Chinese citizens in their homes but have been available to me in hotels in China.

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