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[liberationtech] example in the news on this issue of VPN in China from bloomberg

Tricia Wang mailinglists at
Thu Jan 24 07:59:34 PST 2013

Bert thanks for bringing this article to libtech's attention!
I totally missed this so thannnnkkk you!

I understand that the Chinese internet is censored and its never ending
policies to surveill the web are alarming.
Although I don't find articles like this productive to the overall cause of
developing circumvention solutions for Chinese people.

Phillip Shishkin grossly misrepresents how Chinese people experience the
Chinese internet. I mean really? "Two things struck me when I first flew
into Beijing: lack of sunlight and lack of Internet."
This article is centered on his narrative and does not qualify as a
representative sample of how 22% of the world's internet users experience
the Chinese internet.

Several members of the LibTech list have not fallen in this same pit -
they've asked great questions that fall on the side of facts and the actual
experience of Chinese people.

I also want to point out the work of writers like An Xiao Mina who have
shown how the internet is incredibly lively in China DESPITE persistent
On 88 Bar we document memes as a form of social protest -
She also has several pieces about social media use in China  -

Just because they are not be using it in ways that we expect or comprehend
doesn't mean that they are lacking internet access.

I get so tired of hearing the media perpetuate this idea that Chinese
people live in the dark because of censorship.
It's just not true when you actually live with everyday Chinese people or
conduct even light ethnographic fieldwork.

Does anyone notice this or feel feel the same way?


* / 王圣捷 *
China: +86 18627809913
US: +1 9189379264

On Thu, Jan 24, 2013 at 1:56 AM, Bert Arroyo <pacificboy at> wrote:

>  This are just some articles in the news last months in this issue of VPN
> in China. Now how these reports get the facts is one issue, one should
> investigate deeper on this.
> How China Is Sealing Holes in Its Internet Firewall
> By Philip Shishkin Dec 31, 2012 7:30 AM CT
>    - Facebook Share<>
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>    Q
>  Two things struck me when I first flew into Beijing: lack of sunlight and
> lack of Internet.
> The sun, on many days, hangs behind a haze of pollution, its light
> filtered down to a soupy dusk. The Internet is stuck behind a government
> firewall, its main offerings obstructed to those living in China.
> That neither the sun nor the Web is fully gone, merely crippled, makes
> dealing with their abbreviated selves especially annoying. You know their
> full versions are out there somewhere because they tease you most days. The
> sun’s orange halo might appear briefly at dawn, only to be engulfed by the
> smog. Gmail’s homepage might begin to load tentatively, only to stumble and
> freeze.
> In many parts of the world (with some notable exceptions), we have come to
> count breathable air and unfettered Internet access<> among
> basic human conveniences, alongside indoor plumbing and access to
> education. That’s why it is so jarring and disorienting to suddenly lose
> them in Beijing to man-made forces of breakneck industrialization and
> censorship. No amount of reading or hearing about Beijing’s air pollution
> and the Great Firewall, as the system of Internet censorship is inevitably
> known, is enough to prepare you to deal with them.
> For the moment, I’ll leave the sun where I hope it still is, wrapped away
> in a blanket of smog so thick I can barely see the high-rises less than a
> mile away. It smells faintly as if someone is burning tires.
> Registration Required
> The Great Firewall is a more complex and nuanced phenomenon, and it
> appears to be getting more capable in tripping up undesirable Web
> connections<>
> .
> Like many foreigners in China <>, I
> signed up for a virtual private network, or VPN, geek-speak for a link to
> an overseas server, which allows you to leapfrog the Chinese Internet and
> plug straight into the real thing, as if you were sitting in New York<>
>  or London <>. Twitter, the New York
> Times and Gmail loaded seamlessly on my iPad, ending a tense couple of days
> of withdrawal symptoms. And then it all crashed.
> My VPN provider, a major player in the market, explained in an e-mail that
> the disruption was due to a recent update of the Great Firewall, referred
> to as the GFW, which “now has the ability to learn, discover and block VPN
> protocols automatically.”
> The next day, the Global Times, a Chinese newspaper, ran an article
> headlined <>, “Foreign-run
> VPNs illegal in China: govt.” In it, the man known as the founding father
> of the Great Firewall was quoted as saying that foreign VPN providers
> needed to register with the government. “I haven’t heard that any foreign
> companies have registered,” Fang Binxing, who is now president of Beijing
> University of Posts and Telecommunications, told<> the
> newspaper.
> Fang gained notoriety in 2011 when a student threw a shoe at him while he
> was delivering a lecture on cybersecurity. The shoe connected with the
> target. The student fled the scene and went into hiding, becoming an
> instant celebrity among the country’s many opponents of Internet curbs.
> Sometime later, hackers broke into the homepage of Binxing’s university and
> defaced it with an image from something called Angry Shoes, a spoof on the
> wildly popular “Angry Birds” game. The birds at the slingshot are replaced
> with shoes, and the pigs in the wooden house are replaced<> with
> Binxing’s face.
> The most recent VPN disruption seemed intended to target mobile devices,
> which are fast becoming an important way to access the Internet. As my VPN
> provider promised to find a way to outwit the Great Firewall, several
> articles in state-run media reminded readers of the dangers lurking on the
> Web.
>  China’s Rationale
> On Dec. 18, for instance, a commentary piece on Xinhua, China’s official
> news agency, called<>for
> new laws to govern the Internet: “If there is no strict legal punishments
> on the violators in cyber space, the negative factors will run wild to
> destroy the Internet order and even incite online violence, which will
> bring great damage to people and society.” This is the Chinese government’s
> original rationale for erecting the Great Firewall, an elaborate network of
> blocks, network slowdowns and censorship rules that keep many of China’s
> half- billion Internet users in the dark about events in the world and in
> their own country.
> The unease about the broader issue of curbs on free speech was stoked anew
> recently when Mo Yan, the Chinese writer who won this year’s Nobel Prize<> for
> literature, seemed to liken censorship to airport-security checks: an
> indispensable nuisance.
> China’s Internet is a strange place. Twitter and Facebook are blocked,
> their ability to disseminate unwelcome news and serve as organizing
> platforms for all sorts of protests deemed too grave a threat. Some of
> Google Inc.’s services, including Gmail, are intentionally slowed down to a
> snail’s pace, which is arguably even worse than being blocked outright
> because it gives customers an impression of poor service.
> At the same time, Chinese clones of these American companies operate
> freely and load lightning-fast, their searches carefully scrubbed for
> sensitive terms by in-house censors. Western Internet companies that choose
> to enter the booming Chinese market have to play by the government’s rules.
> The most striking example is Skype Inc., owned by Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)<> As
> detailed by, a website tracking all things related to the
> Great Firewall (and, of course, blocked by it), when you download Skype
> software in China, you are actually getting a product tweaked in a crucial
> way. Chinese Skype, a joint venture majority-owned by a local company,
> allows<> the
> government to monitor your chats.
> Among the many curious things about the Chinese Internet, one apparent
> contradiction stands out. Xinhua, the mouthpiece of the government that
> insists on blocking Twitter, recently opened a Twitter account, sending out
> more than 3,000 tweets, and attracting 8,000 followers -- following no one
> itself. Xinhua’s appearance on Twitter, and the one-way nature of its
> boosterish account, invited an avalanche of ridicule<> in
> the Chinese blogosphere.
>  Blocked Sites
> Western news outlets that touch taboo subjects are blocked, too.
><> and
> are both blocked because of their recent investigative
> reports on the financial dealings of top Chinese leaders.
> How effective is the Great Firewall, given the many ways of leaping over
> it? China’s Internet sleuths aren’t overly concerned with how foreign
> companies and individuals access the Web, or what they read there. They are
> concerned about Chinese public opinion, and about ways to influence it by
> regulating what the Chinese people are and aren’t allowed to see on the
> Internet.
> By that second measure, the firewall achieves its objectives just fine,
> despite the availability of VPNs and other technical tricks, many of them
> free.
> Of China’s 500 million Web users, only about 1 percent “use these tools to
> get around censorship, either because most do not know how or because they
> lack sufficient interest in -- or awareness of -- what exists on the other
> side of the ‘great firewall,’” Rebecca MacKinnon writes in “Consent of the
> Networked,” a book on Internet freedom around the world.
> Meanwhile, the wizards at my VPN provider finally found a way around the
> firewall’s latest crackdown on smartphones and tablets. My iPad is useful
> again, until the firewall catches on and a new round of cat-and-mouse
> begins.
> Sadly, there’s no good news to report on breaching the wall of smog
> blocking the sun. No one has yet invented a virtual private network to
> transport one through the Beijing pollution.
> (Philip Shishkin is a fellow at the Asia Society<> and
> the author of “Restless Valley<>:
> Revolution, Murder and Intrigue in the Heart of Central Asia,” to be
> published in May by Yale University Press. The opinions expressed are his
> own.)
> To contact the writer of this article: Philip Shishkin at
> Philip.Shishkin at
> To contact the editor responsible for this article: Katy Roberts at
> kroberts29 at
> --
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