Oh yes. You read right. There really is such a thing as the Great Chinese Firewall and while you may not be able to see it, or even climb to the tenth tower to prove your manhood (or womanhood, for that matter), it certainly is bigger than anything you’ve ever seen (or not seen, for that matter).
The Great Chinese Firewall was initially developed by the Communist Party of China (CPC) in an attempt to prevent and regulate internet freedom. Basically, it is internet censorship down to the very core. You may think this sounds strange and somewhat violating but it’s been around for years and while there have been rumors in recent times that the electronic wall may be cracking or perhaps lowered, this doesn’t seem to have occurred.
So, you’re asking what exactly does the CPC censor and why do they do it?
Well let’s start with what and trust me there’s a long list. From preventing access to certain types of online videos and speeches to filtering out key words during online searches to the plain down blocking of certain websites. If it’s going to promote any form of free thinking and uprising against the CPC, it’s gone.
Why do they do it?
Basically to prevent freedom of speech. The CPC certainly can’t have locals going around watching things like The Occupy Movement. Where else would they get these crazy ideas from, right? After all, they are trying to prevent a replica of the Tiananmen Uprising. Anything that could potentially lead to free speech, free thoughts, free ideas or free anything that goes against the ‘best interests’ of the CPC is blocked and gone. You won’t even know it’s happening.
How does this affect you?
Well let’s say you’re planning a vacation to China. You obviously want to be able to post your experiences on social media while you’re there and to maybe even watch some YouTube videos as you unwind at night in your hotel room. Right? Wrong. You won’t be able too. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even YouTube are completely blocked. Google too. Oh yes, the good old internet giant Google is gone, simply because the CPC says so. Well actually no, it’s more because Google refused to release some much requested online monitoring information so they just blocked Google. Thought you could do a quick internet search on biking around the ancient city walls in Xian or what are the best walking routes around the summer palace? Well you’ll have to use Yahoo, Bing or Baidu for that.
Need to access your Gmail and find that hotel booking reference? You won’t be able to because Google is blocked. So make sure you print out any important information you may require from your Gmail Inbox before you arrive on the Mainland.
So how can you survive in China with all this internet censorship and is there a way around this?
Yes. Most of who live here use what is known as a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Basically this allows you to create a secure connection to another network from a range of countries outside of China. Simply put, it’s as if you were in another country and connected to the internet. While it technically is not allowed, it’s still common practice among travelers and those of us who choose to live in China and while you may be able to get away with it for the majority of your time there, don’t be surprised if you suddenly wake up one day to find your VPN not connecting.
The CPC has a pretty strong team protecting that Great Firewall and they are constantly cracking down on VPN service providers who do, mind you, fight back in the sly. We’ve had numerous occasions when our service providers were just not connecting for as long as a full week. Soon enough though, they were online and we were able to access our mails and carry on as normal. That being said, don’t go blabbing around in public about your VPN because trust me, you may soon have an unknown Chinese official knocking on your door late in the evening!
While internet censorship in China sounds pretty bad, truth be told, it’s not. Many of us have survived without using Google and if you live in China, you’ll soon learn to adapt to the commonly allowed social media sites like QQ and WeChat moments most likely because all your local friends are on there too. That being said, it is nice to know that there is still a way for you to access your homely comforts like Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.