Great Firewall of China

by Zachary Smith  

After many experiences abroad, I can safely say that social media are the easiest way to stay connected with friends and family back in one’s home country.  Whether I am referring to my semester in New Zealand with additional trips to Fiji, Kingdom of Tonga and Australia, my 18-month adventure to China or any of my other international trips.

 Often there is not enough time to contact each person individually, therefore social media performs my end goal of updating everyone in an extremely timely fashion.

What do you do when social media are blocked though?  This is a challenge facing all foreigners who live in countries such as China.  For over the past year, the Great Firewall of China has blocked social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.  Numerous blogging sites have been shut down due to the Great Firewall as well.  A clever group of travelers have created the a comprehensive list of websites currently blocked in China.

This all started to happen, because China realized the potential of social media to spread news quickly throughout the world.  In 2009, riots broke out in the northern province of XinJiang.  To block this information from getting out to the rest of the world, China blocked the internet in this province and Internet in the rest of China.  Many news stories have been written in regards to this issue.

Ways around the Great Firewall have been created, such as proxy servers.  Therefore, we have been able to see blogs and social media updates from foreigners living in China, however this is not a permanent solution to the problem because these proxy servers are not always reliable.  

Given the fact that it is very hard, sometimes impossible, to gain access to social media and international news media in China, would you be willing to travel to there?  Is China, which claims it wants to open its doors more to outsiders, giving outsiders more of a reason not to go there with the recent social media bans?

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2 responses to “Great Firewall of China

  1. Nothing could keep me from visiting China if the opportunity arose!

    Are Facebook and Twitter always blocked? Or is it sporadic? I know that China shuts down certain sites around the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

    I’m surprised China has been as successful as it has been in shutting down websites. It seems like an impossible task. Eventually, information will get out. (See Iran, summer 2009.)

  2. When I arrived in China, Facebook, Twitter and Blogger were working there. However, after the ethnic problems in XinJiang province, they were shut down and have been continually since this point. There are, as I mentioned, proxies which allows use. However, foreigners, especially ones who are on work visas and have residency permits attached to their work visas, must be careful about what they post online, as they can be held accountable for it. The university where I taught told me that they are aware that I do have access to Facebook, Twitter, etc. and asked me to please be mindful of whatever I say.

    Yes, the restrictions with the Great firewall do get more strict during the time of the Tiananmen Square massacre, however that is not a problem for Chinese people. When I spoke with students privately regarding this, they had no idea what event I was referring too. So, this is really only a problem for foreigners.

    I know that information will get out, and there are ways around it. I had a China “friendly” blog during my time in China, and I also had one with the real version of what happened. for this real version I would email a friend back home who would post the entries for me. This was how I dealt with it, as I did not want to risk being caught by my employer and thus lose my residency permit or work visa.

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