* Posts by Meng

2 posts • joined 20 May 2011

Using the internet in the People's Republic of China

Meng

Shenanigans part 2

Following on from my earlier comment and to clarify some of the other speculations, I can tell you that full-on censorship is alive and well here in China, where I live. The gov't cunningly go out of their way to make the censorship look like a bad connection or heavy traffic to the technically uninitiated. Typical strategies include random socket resets, messing with VPN protocols, possibly throttling traffic (I can't confirm that) and if they see you (and they do watch) searching for naughty things like the Dalai Lama or Ai Weiwei, they might even shut off your connection.

However, with a VPN, you can see anything you want through your home connection, cafe wifi or out and about with either of the 3G services (China Mobile, China Unicom) - I've tried all that. They can interrupt the connection, but not read your traffic, apparently.

While many of us may look at modern China and see a relatively content populace not bothered about the censorship or heavy hand of the government, I don't buy it.

Given the ridiculous scale of resource mis-allocation in China's recent history - that cost 10s of millions of lives during the Mao era - and continues today (albeit at a lesser rate) it's not surprising that people are pleased that their standard of living increases faster than at any time in history. Congratulations - pull your finger out of the dam and the water flows out. What would it have been like if people had been allowed to develop their own society? Almost certainly orders of magnitude wealthier and healthier.

One reason it appears that people in China don't care about these restrictions is because a) you don't hear about it and b) neither do they. They don't know about anything that reflects badly on China, because it's censored. Ask most Chinese about Liu Xioabao or Tiananhmen and you'll likely get a blank stare.

The other reason is that dissent is crushed mercilessly and they know it. The fellow who complained about the *first* incident (this is on-going, years later) of milk powder contamination that killed 6 babies and injured 300,000 got a 2 year jail sentence for disturbing public order. They'll make sure *that* story gets around, you can bet.

Wilful and deadly contamination of food and medicine, violent appropriation of houses and land by corrupt officials, near-disasters in domestic airline incidents (reported to me by a senior pilot at one of the airlines) - those are just a couple of incidents that spring to mind.

An educated Chinese friend who has lived in the West says she doesn't think about these problems. "At least you have a foreign passport and can leave any time," she says to me.

Finally, there *is* a lively discussion amongst younger Chinese that use very clever and indirect references to these problems. They play an even livelier game of cat and mouse with the authorities. There's a phrase for "f*** your mother" that they used in reference to the authorities that sounds like "grass mud horse"; Ai Weiwei got jailed because, among other things, he made a sculpture of a horse from grass and mud. Very wry, and admirable, but look where that got him.

China is ostensibly freer than it has been, but the heavy and repressive hand of the communist government is still there, even if it isn't as visible.

Sorry for the lengthy post. Full disclosure: my handle is Chinese, but I am from the West.

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Meng

China firewall shenanigans...

Having lived in Shanghai for the last year, I have found through research and experimentation that there's always a way around it. Much of the blocking is done randomly so that it looks like heavy traffic. The socket connections are randomly reset, though seems to happen more often with Google.

The local DNS is all poisoned so you have to use a reliable 3rd party DNS server, though many of the VPN service providers offer them. I heard about the recent VPN crackdown, bub it didn't affect me as I use a lesser known provider. Still, everyone's up and running again when the VPN companies figure a way around in this game of cat and mouse.

Kind of ridiculous, really since according to most educated locals I've spoken with, there is always access to outside material if you want it badly enough.

Lest any of you think that this sort of thing is in any way benign or for the good of the people, or any of that crap, let me tell you that it is certainly not. People are jailed, beaten up or even killed by corrupt officials who remain unrepentent and offend repeatedly because few people know about it. At least where I come from when those things happen the offender is carted off to jail.

Sure, most people might not care, but that's because they get all their information from state-controlled media, which issues weekly directives on what to publish, where and the angle of the propaganda. Who knows what China would be like if people could read and say what they liked...?

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