The Great Firewall of China

Want to start reading at the beginning of the trip? Click here.


On the Yangzi,

Fri., Oct. 19

I set up this site in the States during the weeks before our departure. As you will notice from the URL, it is hosted by a free blogging service called WordPress.com, which provides you with the ability to view these posts and me with the ability to go to a dashboard where I can create the post, design it, add the pictures, etc. It all looked like it was going to be easy—until I got to China.

Our hotel in Beijing had free high-speed Internet in every room. (It was a really snazzy place.) I could get to the Swarthmore Web site in seconds and to Google to check my g-mail account. I could surf easily almost everywhere else, but when I went to post “Over the Top,” I could neither access my WordPress control panel nor see this site. Lots of other sites, including Typepad, another blogger’s service, seemed to be open. But WordPress, apparently, is not always visible in China.

During the five days we spent in Beijing, I managed to reach the site just three times for short periods, most recently to post “Yiheyuan.” But usually, the little spinner just spins until the computer gives up and says “not available.” Everything after “Flying the Polar Route” has been sent by e-mail to my son in New York and posted from there.

According to some research he did, “China is in general pretty nuts about blocking blog sites.” He thinks that my brief windows into WordPress are “funky hiccups in what is otherwise known as the Great Firewall of China.”

We are so used to the free flow of information on the Internet that it never occurred to me to check on this. I wonder whether they will open things up during the Olympics? A lot of Westerners who visit here for the games next August will want to blog about their trips. Will that be permitted by the authorities?

For now, I’ll use the workaround. Because we are now on a boat on the Yangzi River, Internet access is not just a potential political problem, but a technical one as well. There are four computers on board—all in the bar. They are connected through a wireless telephone link essentially a dial-up connection with a maximum speed of 256kb/sec and intermittent availability at that.

I’ve e-mailed this text to my son as an attachment. I probably won’t be able to post pictures for a few days, but I’ll try to catch up on the writing and add some images when we get to Chongqing. Just now, we exited the series of locks that lifted us over the great Three Gorges Dam—but that’s a story for another post. Stay tuned—and be thankful that you can go wherever you want on the Net.

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One response to “The Great Firewall of China

  1. Who says you can go anywhere on the net from the USA. Only if your ISP can fix your freezing access, which mine here in South Carolina has been unable to do for nine days.

    Personally, I blame Canada.

    As a friend of mine said today on another subject:

    “If there are competing reasonable explanations, always favor the conspiracy theories. They are much more fun.”

    Thank God for the USA, where we manipulate information in a more subtle manner.

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