Week 1: The Great China Firewall


From Japan to Bangkok and now China, it has been quite a ride these past few weeks. Actually wanted to do a write-up weeks back but I was somewhat busy with some work here and there. As for my holiday in the land of the rising sun, I’ll leave that to a later date as most of my photos are on OneDrive and the cloud service alongside Dropbox is not available in China. Not to mention the slow Internet speeds at the place I’m staying.

As I am still settling down to the somewhat different lifestyle here, I am beginning to realize some little things here and there. For one thing is that I am actually quite reliant to social networking sites that I otherwise take for granted previously. Here in China, everyone is either on WeChat or busy typing out 140 characters on Weibo.

Western services like Facebook, Twitter and especially anything that has Google in it has been filtered out of China’s Internet. Even Google’s new mother company, Alphabet is blocked in China . Beyond the usual social media sites that is popular just about everywhere else, certain sites like Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal is also not accessible. Surprisingly CNN is still available here.

People call this the Great China Firewall and that’s exactly what it is. The Chinese government is quite reserved as to what their citizens are able to view and according to my research on the Internet, the Firewall not only blocks sites but everything you search or go to will be filtered by the government. I think this is somewhat true because the internet here fluctuates quite frequently.

You can check out a list of popular websites that are blocked in China through this handy Wikipedia article that seemingly loads in China. Do note that some Wikipedia articles are actually blocked in China, not sure which but I have yet to encounter a blocked wiki article. However, the websites listed in this wiki are just part of the list, the great China Firewall is always growing to censor other sites. Take for example Vessel, the new paid video service which provides time exclusive videos. Initially it works but for a couple of days it was inaccessible. Thank goodness service went back, yeah YouTube is blocked too.

Beyond being faced by a handicapped browsing experience, sometimes some websites will not be rendered properly. Even in the office where there is a steady 30-40mbps uplink, websites will load half-baked as if CSS did not exist. It’s a hit or miss with the load times of websites.

Another thing to note is that Google blogger hosted blogs cannot be accessed, WordPress works but it a little wonky at times. Good thing I switched over to blogging on WordPress a couple years back but my main ttot blog is still on Blogger.

Since Google is blocked I was forced to use Microsoft’s Bing search engine. As much as I am a fan of Microsoft products, after using Bing for the past two weeks, I can genuinely say that Bing is no match to Google. Like really, the search results are just bad and although Bing has (somewhat) copied Google’s magical search cards, Microsoft’s copy is not fully complete.

While Bing might be the second most popular search engine behind Google, the China version of Google is called Baidu and just like Google, Baidu features quite a number of services like a video site, maps, etc. The main reason why I am sticking to use Bing I am primarily looking for english search results. Baidu mainly searches through China’s internet which is full of chinese articles.

Sometimes I even forget that there’s no Google and I’m just stupidly waiting for the google search widget to load.

As for using a smartphone, things are somewhat OK on the Windows Phone side but with Android, there is a serious road bump as you will not be able to update (or download) your previous applications. Not to mention that Gmail does not sync through meaning you have to work around the problem if you depend on Google’s mail service.

There has been reports that Google wants to return to China slowly starting with a censored Google Play. This is assists reports that Huawei will be making this year’s Nexus phone. Huawei is quite a big brand here in mainland China alongside Xiaomi and having a Nexus phone without Google services is going to be a little tricky.

More updates to come…


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