Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Great China Firewall

The Great China Firewall is the Government of Chinas attempt to regulate the Internet and the flow of information. It can be considered the most sophisticated and expensive attempt at information restriction without a complete shutdown like North Korea. It really is a pain in my ass some days.

A standard user is blocked from using Google, Blogger, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and whole host of other sites. Oddly the CBC is blocked but CTV is not. Here is an updated list to see what is blocked.

Interestingly, International companies and universities require access to the outside world but must follow  a litany of rules and regulations. Do not kid yourself, anytime someone inside an "approved" location leaves the Great Chinese Firewall everything they do is monitored and recorded. So heading over to YouPorn or the FreeTibet websites will probably get your ass tossed in jail.

The Internet being what it is there are always options. Virtual Private Network software or applications are standard issue for any Expat living in the Middle Kingdom. There are quite a few to chose from and the pricing is reasonable for what you get. ExpressVPN, IPVanish are popular but this list provides a good choice of options and reliability.

I was using IPVanish until a student pointed me to Psiphon which is fast, free and oddly enough Canadian. Chinese students use VPNs when they can but there is still the innate fear of being caught and most are perfectly content with "all things Chinese".
As the Chinese saying goes "the loose nail gets the hammer" . That statement itself should tell you everything you need to know about being a Chinese National and how they approach daily life.

Ultimately this is not really about censorship, its about money. China has taken the best of Western social media and search engines and created their own. Its not just watches, shoes and handbags they they replicate. WeChat, Weibo, QQ, RenRen, Youku Tudou, will get you off and running and between them you have the complete Western Social Media Experience. WeChat is probably the greatest application I have ever used and it will one day rule the world. When it comes to your hometown smile thankfully and embrace it with love and affection. I pay with everything using WeChat and can not remember the last time I carried cash.

WeChat, a mobile app, swept up the pool of potential users of Facebook, developing into what is possibly the biggest hub for communication in China. It has all the features of Facebook Messenger, the usefulness of Venmo and Paypal, and a multitude of other utilities that it seems unfitting to call it simply a “social media platform.” Users can post Moments on their walls, order taxi service or movie tickets, and in general utilize the app not just for communication but for daily services. Not only is it used by individuals; companies and famous persons can host public accounts that generate content for promotional purposes  -- Tutorming Website

Social Media has run it's course with me.I do not spend much time on FB and requiring a VPN to access it has made me realize how much I do not miss it. However internally I still justify my account and am reluctant to delete it. I still like email. I love using YouTube to waste time and of course Blogger. When you are relegated to using Yahoo and Bing for your searches you long for access to Google. I use Reditt/NHL to find live streams of The Toronto Maple Leafs and the quality is great. I think I have an Instagram account but who cares.

Now all that being said I have noticed that my VPN has slowed considerably in the last month and some days it does not work at all. Now I am preparing for my trip to Nepal and I have been download an obtuse amount of music lately so China Telecom could just be pissed off at me. I access my VPN through England, Germany or Singapore for my best results but I think the gig is up so I will have to try other countries to avoid any patterns, which yes are monitored. There is constant talk and news about how the Chinese government is going to "crack down" on illegal VPN's but who knows.

Just a random thought. Of all the places I have lived my home Internet has never been more that $30 a month, which is what I pay here. This includes 10 MB speed and unlimited bandwidth. Seriously there are no charges for overages or whatever other bull**it companies in Canada charge you. When I was preparing for this trip I was using WeChat to take Chinese lessons 5 nights a week for an hour. I received the sweet surprise of $100 overage charge from Cogeco on the next bill. Bandwidth usage, what a load of crap.

So there you have it, life behind the Great Chinese Firewall. Like any wall you can always go around, over or through it. As you can see I am using Blogger but I have not written a post in over a month because loading this site was next to impossible. Alas Great Chinese Firewall you have been breached yet again.

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