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the notorious GFW

The Great Firewall of China doesn’t need much introduction. Western social networking in China has essentially come to a halt this year, with the most popular sites (Blogspot, Facebook, Youtube, Twitter) all behind the firewall. Of course, many continue to visit these site with VPNs and proxies, but having to turn on my VPN before watching a Youtube video is a seemingly-minor annoyance that is, in actuality, quite inhibitory.

Do I really want to watch that video? Nah, not really. How badly do I want to respond to this or that Facebook comment? Eh, I can live without.

There is not much I can add about the firewall that’s not already out there, but what I have found to be surprising and interesting are:

1) the ever-changing nature of what I can access day-to-day,
2) what sites are blocked, and perhaps more so, what sites are not.

When I first arrived in Beijing, I continued to read blogspot posts through my Google Reader. RSS feeds were, surprisingly, not behind the firewall despite the fact that the blogs themselves were. Then, last week, Google Reader threw errors for all of my blogspot subscriptions. Turning on the VPN promptly fixed the problem. I thought the censors had finally wisened up to the RSS work-around.

Except, by the next day, access to all feeds had been restored. The catch? Pictures embedded in posts no longer display in RSS feeds.

So now I also ask daily, “How badly do I want to see that blog post picture?”

Then there are the blocked sites that completely baffle me. Doing some research at work today, I wanted to access a series of .org websites, one site for each study commissioned by the EU on a specific consumer product. All of these sites were blocked. Why? I can’t come up with any logical reasoning.

Then, on the other hand, Flickr access is still free as a bird (knock on wood).


  1. how about Flickr pictures embedded in Blogspot posts? (does it just block all img tags?)

    Posted on 08-Dec-09 at 4:50 pm | Permalink
  2. shan

    huh, that’s interesting … I definitely needed VPN last week to view your blog, but the images showed up today in GReader (not sure if there was a general connection problem before)

    Posted on 08-Dec-09 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

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