The Great Firewall of China

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One of the most annoying and frustrating things about living in China is not being able to freely use the internet. Something I used to take for granted when I was living in England. Those of you who have visited China and tried to use the internet, know exactly how infuriating this can be.  This page can’t be displayed appears not because you have a connection problem, it’s because of “The Great Firewall of China”.  The reason for this is mainly down to the Chinese Government blocking information from its citizens and some of this is down to pissing-off the west, because of Chinese social thinking.

Back in Britain I didn’t buy-into that mass populus mind-altering social network program (Facebook to the layman) or Twitter, which is the same, but in only 140 characters (by the way Twitter, I’m still waiting for my confirmation email).  Personally, I think they can have an adverse affect on the mind and it’s not a healthy way of living.  Human beings are social creatures that require interaction with others in the real world, not the cyber world.  I’ve heard about many people whose personalities have changed after long-term interaction with Facebook (yes conspiracy theorists, I’m backing your corner here).  Now, in the UK, many people, including teachers, are under a lot of stress from cyber-bullying, sometimes leading to depression and suicide.  Twitter is also full of abusive people, but in only 140 characters (as if that makes any difference).  What people say about David Cameron (the UK Prime Minister) is astounding!  We’re talking about the leader of a country and the man gets no respect.  That guy is either crazy to sign-up to Twitter, or he’s got huge balls!  To me, the idea of social networking is to meet and greet new people, and to make new friends or contacts.  Unfortunately, online social networking has turned into a cyber bitchfest!

When my students complain about not being able to see Facebook or Twitter, I tell them that their Government is actually doing them a favour, by protecting them from this “poison” from the west.  I then remind them of the Chinese version Weixin (a sort of combined Facebook/Twitter, but I think better).  When I look at Chinese society today, it reminds me of the pureness I felt growing up in 1970’s Britain, a kind of naivety if you like.  A strong community spirit, with the good neighbour you could always rely on.  I support the Chinese Government on this, even though it does affect my surfing.  The Chinese are not yet ready for this part of western culture.

Here in China, anybody can download any movie or song absolutely FREE!  Software can be downloaded onto your computer (or mobile device) that allows you to watch movies, they even have Chinese subtitles.  Popular TV programmes are also available.  You can go to many websites to download songs directly onto your mp3 player.  Yes, this is FREE!  China is a socialist state, and thus believes everyone should have the right to watch movies and listen to songs, it should not just be a privilege for the rich.  Poor people in the rural villages would not be able to afford this, so, its free for everyone.  A true, altruistic ideal and fair to Chinese people, but, also an infringement of international copyright laws and illegal.  China knowingly does this and doesn’t care, hence, western companies are pissed-off with them.  One of my Chinese friends told me that the reason Google pulled-out of China was because of this, and now Google blocks Chinese people from using it’s service.  This, I think we can take with a pinch of salt.  I do not support the Chinese Government on this.  If you want to establish a good relationship with the west, then do the right thing, pay subscription fees.

I see a wasted opportunity here.  Every Chinese household only needs to pay 1RMB (10p) a month to use the download services.  There are 1.4B Chinese people, this is a lot of money every year.  The software developers, translators, subtitle guys, etc can all be paid, what’s left can be distributed to the copyright owners through an agent.

If you do bring your laptop with you on your trip to China, there are some things you should know.  It’s 220V here, so bring a transformer with you if your country is on 110V (or buy a new power supply here, they’re very cheap).  Facebook and Twitter are blocked, so you can have a good break from them too.  Google doesn’t work, but you can surf with Yahoo.  GMX email doesn’t work and Ymail only sometimes, and then it’s very slow.  Outlook works fine and is fast.  Better still, get a VPN or proxy set-up in your own country and working on your notebook, before you arrive.

Chris Just

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