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An Internet Potemkin village
March 1, 2008 12:19 PM   Subscribe

The Great Firewall of China (previously), the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, athlete bloggers (allowed for the first time by the IOC), visitors, and freedom in Beijing, 2008.

The so-called Great Firewall may be 'breached' for the Games. The Atlantic Monthly investigates.
posted by dawson (19 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
How strange that the typically brilliant Guy Billout illustration is on the Wired article rather than the Atlantic article; considering how frequently his work appears in the Atlantic.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:29 PM on March 1, 2008


The great firewall is a joke. Sitting in a Beijing Starbucks (free wifi! Take that, American Starbucks) it took me all of two minutes to get an ssh tunnel to the outside, and that's all it takes. China has to choose between the ability to have secure sessions or censorship. It can't have both.
posted by mullingitover at 12:31 PM on March 1, 2008


The point of the Firewall, at least in the Atlantic, is that it provides just enough hassle combined with the ease to get most information already available to make most Chinese not bother worrying about what they're missing. Its not that it is extremely hard to get around.
posted by Atreides at 12:54 PM on March 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Atreides has it. They're far more interested controlling in what Chinese people say to each other.
posted by Abiezer at 1:04 PM on March 1, 2008


Abiezer writes "They're far more interested controlling in what Chinese people say to each other."

After the Taiping Rebellion and the Communist Revolution in China, who can blame them? They have a history of rising up and killing the ruling class.
posted by mullingitover at 1:31 PM on March 1, 2008


mullingitover writes: After the Taiping Rebellion and the Communist Revolution in China, who can blame them? They have a history of rising up and killing the ruling class.


Well, I don't think anyone's saying it's irrational for the ruling class to act to protect their lot, but it doesn't mean that what's in the best interest of the ruling class is necessarily in the best interest of everyone else.

It's definitely easier (for the leaders) to run a government when your decisions aren't questioned and your power is unchecked, but is perpetuating ignorance in your population necessarily the best thing overall? I guess that depends on your philosophy on government.
posted by anifinder at 2:13 PM on March 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


The point of the Firewall, at least in the Atlantic, is that it provides just enough hassle combined with the ease to get most information already available to make most Chinese not bother worrying about what they're missing. Its not that it is extremely hard to get around.

Sounds like the RIAA's strategy. Make file sharing just annoying enough that people will buy it legitimately. The only problem is, all their DRM-laden bullshit is still more annoying to use then file sharing.
posted by delmoi at 2:19 PM on March 1, 2008


anifinder writes "Well, I don't think anyone's saying it's irrational for the ruling class to act to protect their lot, but it doesn't mean that what's in the best interest of the ruling class is necessarily in the best interest of everyone else."

DAMN YOU LIBERALS! WHY DO YOU HATE AMERICA!?


...oh wait we're talking about China. Yes, those Chinese people need to question their government more. Freedom is on the march and all that.
posted by mullingitover at 3:06 PM on March 1, 2008


The great firewall is a joke: for Internet-savvy people who know how to circumvent it perhaps, but I still have 3 websites with 0 traffic coming from China, probably because the censors decided to block a full range of IPs of my web host provider...
posted by elgilito at 3:24 PM on March 1, 2008


Are Hong Kong and the SEZs under the same firewall as the rest of the nation?
posted by bunnytricks at 3:32 PM on March 1, 2008


bunnytricks,
Hong Kong isn't, but the SEZs are.
posted by dawson at 3:47 PM on March 1, 2008


I'm on a Beijing hotel Internet connection right now (here on business). Can get to MeFi, obviously, but can't get to the first wired link on this post (or www.wired.com). Rest of the links are fine I think... except I can't get to the Chicago Tribune link on the /. link but it may just be too old. The most annoying block so far, personally, is not being able to get to vox.com where I was intending to write up all the minute details of my trip, so I'll have to stick to my ol' blogger.com standby or just write offline.
posted by girlhacker at 5:03 PM on March 1, 2008


girlhacker, you may try Anonymizer. When living in China I started missing being able to check many sites from BBC to Wiki, and so downloaded their software (gratis for those in China, Chinese IP req.) and wherever I used my laptop there was never a problem. Older article here
posted by dawson at 6:18 PM on March 1, 2008


elgilito - one thing I've found is that certain overseas IPs block addresses in the China range because of spamming, so it may not necessarily be the Great Firewall that is stopping traffic to your sites.
girlhacker - if you use Firefox, get the Gladder plug-in - it uses open proxies and gets round most of the low-level annoyances, though will crap out on the things they're really keen for you not to see.
posted by Abiezer at 10:26 PM on March 1, 2008


By odd coincidence, just got one of those odd things I'd had before but forgot about - an overseas phone call to my mobile phone that played a recorded report on the ant-farming (no, really) scandal in Shenyang and associated mass protests last year.
posted by Abiezer at 10:56 PM on March 1, 2008


Odd that I ised the word odd twice, oddly enough. Ahem.
posted by Abiezer at 10:57 PM on March 1, 2008


girlhacker -- odd; which hotel are you in? I've found that the Crowne Plaza hotels have their own proxies set up so that guests can access blocked sites, whereas other hotels mostly don't. Seconding the recommendations of Gladder and Anonymizer; if you want speed and don't mind getting ads stuck at the top of the page, Hotspot Shield is a handy little free VPN app for Mac and Windows that will get you around all of the blocks much faster than Tor or other proxies.
posted by bokane at 12:58 AM on March 2, 2008


Thanks for the tips! I'm in the Renaissance Beijing, run by Marriott.
posted by girlhacker at 7:40 AM on March 2, 2008


Just a follow-up for anyone who looks this up later: during my trip I chatted with an ex-pat in Beijing who works in public affairs. He told me that the Internet site blocking varies according to what is going on at the time. The week I was there the National People's Congress was in session and there was a much wider clamp-down of Internet access than usual.
posted by girlhacker at 11:04 PM on March 9, 2008


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