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Behind the Great Firewall: What It's Really Like To Log On From China

samzenpus posted about 2 months ago | from the crack-in-the-wall dept.

Censorship 90

alphadogg (971356) writes China makes headlines every other week for its censorship of the Internet, but few people outside the country know what it's like to live with those access controls, or how to get around them. This IDG News Service writer has lived in China for close to six years and censorship has been a near constant, lurking in the background ready to "harmonize" the Web and throw a wrench in his online viewing. It's been especially evident this month. Google's services, which don't follow the strict censorship rules, are currently blocked. How long that will last is unknown, but it coincides with the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests earlier this month — an event the Chinese government wants no one to remember.

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You Can Help (2)

rotorbudd (1242864) | about 2 months ago | (#47217811)

Just run a Tor obfuscated bridge.

Re:You Can Help (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47217831)

I wonder how the user in china has downloaded tor in the first place? Do they have some sort of underground sneakernet where people sell tor or what? I assume China would also block all access to tor downloads and such.

Re:You Can Help (2)

rotorbudd (1242864) | about 2 months ago | (#47217847)

The bridge isn't running in China, the user connects to it from China.
Here's a little info https://www.torproject.org/doc... [torproject.org]

Re:You Can Help (1)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | about 2 months ago | (#47217885)

I wonder how the user in china has downloaded tor in the first place?

In much the same way that all smart Chinese Internet users have been using VPNs for years, I imagine.

Re:You Can Help (1)

ruir (2709173) | about 2 months ago | (#47220337)

My only experience with the Great Firewall is with a couple of chinese students returning home and asking why OUR VPN stopped working, and me not knowing what to say them because I did not want to be politically incorrect. At the end of the day I told them all was ok in our side, and for them to talk to their uni administrator. However I had the suspicion it was blocked, and they might have known it too. So at the end of the day, VPN use is not so linear.

Re:You Can Help (2)

Fuzi719 (1107665) | about 2 months ago | (#47221467)

Last year the GFW began blocking OpenVPN connections. Many VPN providers were blocked, their DNS entries erased from the standard DNS servers that the Chinese ISPs use. The way around that now is to hardcode a DNS server like OpenDNS or Google DNS and to use PPTP or L2TP VPN connections. I can attest that those still work, I was back in China over the Chinese New Year holidays. I was able to use VPN on my laptop connected to a Shanghai ISP as well as on my Android phone using China Mobile HSPA+ data.

Re:You Can Help (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47222019)

PPTP or L2TP?! So they're forcing users to use insecure VPN protocols...

Re:You Can Help (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 2 months ago | (#47218763)

Why do you think China's attempts at censoring the net would be any more successful than ours? Has blocking any torrent site ever lasted longer than a few nanoseconds 'til someone found a way around it and word spread?

Re:You Can Help (0)

228e2 (934443) | about 2 months ago | (#47219423)

China's attempts to censor the net is magnitudes more successful than ours (US) primarily because the US does not censor the net at all although tv would lead you to think otherwise, and China censors the net greatly.

Re:You Can Help (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47220201)

China's attempts to censor the net is magnitudes more successful than ours

I disagree. China's population control is based on direct, overt actions. US' uses indirect, covert actions. While more expensive, these are less likely to make people cause trouble.

the US does not censor the net at all

Remember when the US seized Demonoid's domain?

Re:You Can Help (2)

murdocj (543661) | about 2 months ago | (#47220747)

You don't get it, do you. If you were in China, this discussion wouldn't be happening, and simply for posting here you could be in jail.

Re:You Can Help (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47222279)

Your post is based on what exactly? What you read in the paper + your opinion?

Re:You Can Help (1)

dj245 (732906) | about 2 months ago | (#47223099)

You don't get it, do you. If you were in China, this discussion wouldn't be happening, and simply for posting here you could be in jail.

In the US, we are given the illusion of freedom and transparency so that we feel superior, poke fun and insults at the systems of other systems, and don't question our own system. Propaganda is most effective when people don't realize it as such. Different methods, same result.

Re:You Can Help (1)

228e2 (934443) | about 2 months ago | (#47223179)

This is why everyone hates America. We are so damn dense and lack any global perspective.

Really? The US censors your internet on a national (or any) level comparable to China? Really? You have to VPN to get on CNN/FB/Twitter? You have use TOR to get on Slashdot? Using any of the above sites is illegal in the US?

Re:You Can Help (1)

mattack2 (1165421) | about 2 months ago | (#47226529)

China's attempts to censor the net is magnitudes more successful than ours (US) primarily because the US does not censor the net at all

Then don't you really mean 'infinitely' more successful? How can you be magnitudes more successful than 0?

Re:You Can Help (1)

cyfer2000 (548592) | about 2 months ago | (#47217869)

China's GFW can dynamically identify Tor traffics and block them.

Re:You Can Help (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47218501)

I used to live in the PRC and these days it's a cat and mouse game between the authorities and the people running the VPN services. Some days the VPNs work and some days the authorities are winning.

But, for the most part, the main thing I noticed was the sluggishness of a high latency connection. It wasn't always clear if a site had been blocked or it it was just failing to load because incompetent web admins insist upon loading hundreds of scripts that each take the latency hit. I'd have sites take multiple seconds to load as a result.

Re:You Can Help (1)

Arker (91948) | about 2 months ago | (#47218941)

"But, for the most part, the main thing I noticed was the sluggishness of a high latency connection. It wasn't always clear if a site had been blocked or it it was just failing to load because incompetent web admins insist upon loading hundreds of scripts that each take the latency hit. I'd have sites take multiple seconds to load as a result."

Request policy and noscript solves this problem along with a great many others in one go.

Noscript helped a lot (2)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | about 2 months ago | (#47219267)

A LOT! I don't want your average bozo website running any script on my machine anyway...

Re:You Can Help (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47219987)

I have been using Internet from China, Singapore, Malaysia, and Australia. China has the slowest and most unstable global Internet connection. High latency is a goal for the PRC. High latency for international connections makes the local Chinese services more competitive. High latency also reduces the user experience for international services enough to make many not bother using the "bad and slow international services".

Skype from China works OK because Skype has made a political partnership with the Chinese leaders. Skype could work better, but it is noticeable better than other services without political deals with the government of the PRC.

The VPN connection back to work in Europe is like flash back to 64bit ISDN.

Re:You Can Help (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47220377)

Forget about sites that wants something from google servers (pretty much all sites), most browsers will display a blank page while waiting for ever. Luckily, if you press ESC in chrome, it will skip the request and continue to load the page. A bit strange but better than nothing.

Re:You Can Help (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47217933)

Shove a whole onion up your ass, tortard.

Re:You Can Help (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47219143)

but few people outside the country know what it's like

DUUUH.....

But chink amateurs still far behind the west as usual, our NSA is well pass the censorship stage, we're eavesdropping and storing everybody's entire electronic communication profile in our massive data centers...wake me up when the dumb chinks have at least pulled even, thank you.

Re:You Can Help (2)

Nimey (114278) | about 2 months ago | (#47219293)

Yes, and here's how to do it:
https://www.torproject.org/pro... [torproject.org]

I've been running an obfuscated bridge for about a year now. Setting up was pretty easy and it's been pain-free since then, especially since bandwidth usage limits can be set.

For the uninitiated, a bridge is basically an unpublished entry point into the Tor system; unpublished means you have to send an email to or visit a certain server to be given the address of just one rather than being in the directory for all to see at once, meaning that it's harder for a censor to block. An obfuscated bridge also runs the obfs proxy, which attempts to hide Tor traffic from monitors like the Great Firewall.

Re:You Can Help (1)

Zemran (3101) | about 2 months ago | (#47221499)

TOR quite simply does not work in China. I find it hard to understand why so many people here cannot see how easy it is to recognise protocols connected with TOR, VPN, Proxies, etc. and block any user that uses any forbidden protocol. None of these things work, not because they block the hubs or the addresses but because the they block the protocols.

It's a little like Fight Club... (4, Insightful)

Zanadou (1043400) | about 2 months ago | (#47217853)

As soon as you talk about how to get around the Great Firewall of China...

...that method suddenly stops working.

(Somewhere in Beijing, a Zman adds "*.astrill.com" to the blocklist.)

Re:It's a little like Fight Club... (1)

Cryacin (657549) | about 2 months ago | (#47217907)

(Somewhere in Beijing, a Zman adds "*.astrill.com" to the blocklist.)

I wish someone over in the western hemisphere would add that rule.

Re:It's a little like Fight Club... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47218117)

astrill.com not ass-drill.com (a gay porno site)

Re:It's a little like Fight Club... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47218083)

Nonsense.

Here is how you get around the "Great Firewall of China":

ssh -D1234 some.server.outside.china.which.you.rented.com

There, you're done. Yes, that really works, and if you're a tourist, the chances of really getting into trouble over that are, well, not huge. Some system will notice, somewhere - but you'll be gone after two to four weeks, anyways. It's not hard to get around the firewall - it is hard to get around it for a long time without showing up on the radar.

The real, main reason why the Great Firewall works is that it has the threat of legal consequences backing it up, that there is the real (or, something that is nearly as good, imagined to be real) chance that somebody will start asking you questions about what you are doing, if you are tunneling out or such. The other reason why the firewall works is that an average user will not bother - effectively, you block some website in the major ISPs DNS servers and have google remove it, it is out of sight, out of mind for the _vast_ majority of the population.

Re:It's a little like Fight Club... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47218635)

Rubbish, I've been using various vpn's here in China for 3 years. Not once have I been 'asked any questions'.
I do believe that they MITM or something for some vpn's though, as with some of the ones I have used a handfull of sites would be blocked even when the VPN was active.

Re:It's a little like Fight Club... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47220411)

I've had a huge black van stacked with antennas and discs parked just outside my office, not even trying to hide. What appeared to be military personnel, with black uniforms (never saw those before) had a good time, laughing and horsing around for a couple of days. Then they left. Bunch of amateurs, probably tasked to snoop on the foreigner. Wouldn't want to mess with them though!

Re:It's a little like Fight Club... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47222501)

It most likely varies according to location.

Re:It's a little like Fight Club... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47220293)

Visited my parents in China two years ago, used my university's VPN to watch some lectures. After a single day this stopped working.

How to beat censorship in china. (1)

aliquis (678370) | about 2 months ago | (#47218871)

1. Demand democracy.
2. Convince someone else to follow and on and do the same (including convincing someone else.)

Re:How to beat censorship in china. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47218973)

1. (will get you killed)
2. (is impossible)

Good luck, idiot.

Re:How to beat censorship in china. (2)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | about 2 months ago | (#47219285)

Yeah, good luck, your lifespan is measured in days. If you are careful and lucky you can complain about SOME things, and people do let their opinions be known about GENERAL things "its very polluted here, this should be fixed!" or "food is too expensive!" etc. The government is pretty sensitive about public opinion up to a certain point. It is just always hard to tell if they will react to your complaints by fixing the problem, or killing you.

Re:How to beat censorship in china. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47219901)

The government is pretty sensitive about public opinion up to a certain point. It is just always hard to tell if they will react to your complaints by fixing the problem, or killing you.

So, exactly like America, then?

Re:How to beat censorship in china. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47220483)

1. Demand democracy.
2. Convince someone else to follow and on and do the same (including convincing someone else.)

3. Meet up in a public space. May I suggest Tianamen Square?

I hope (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47217873)

Beta is censored away.

so it's like a work or school network (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47217887)

So it's like a work or school network that covers an entire country. "Few people outside the country know what it's like to live with those access controls, or how to get around them," is total crap. Many, many people know exactly what it's like. Plenty of people outside China have been fired, expelled, or jailed for getting around access controls. Kids today are spoiled brats who grow up with home Internet and no restrictions as long as mommy pays the Internet bill. They have no comprehension of what it was like to have school or work be the only Internet access available.

Re:so it's like a work or school network (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 2 months ago | (#47221263)

Plenty of people outside China have been fired, expelled, or jailed for getting around access controls.

Getting expelled from not following some school's ToS is far different than living where the government is doing it to you at home, and you could be executed if caught.. Getting fired from a job, well its your own damned fault. ( sounds more like you are the spoiled brat here )

Also, who has been jailed due to 'firewall' circumvention? ( other than perhaps some 3rd world country, as they dont count )

We are being bred for slavery. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47217901)

They are dismantling the sleeping middle class. More and more people are becoming poor. We are their cattle. We are being bred for slavery.

They are dismantling the sleeping middle class. More and more people are becoming poor. We are their cattle. We are being bred for slavery.

They are dismantling the sleeping middle class. More and more people are becoming poor. We are their cattle. We are being bred for slavery.

Re:We are being bred for slavery. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47217945)

Who is 'they'?

Re:We are being bred for slavery. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47218207)

They are dismantling the sleeping middle class. More and more people are becoming poor. We are their cattle. We are being bred for slavery.

Who is 'they'?

At a personally uncritical time, I remember seeing a clip a few years ago of U.S. President Truman being pissed while storming out of some international game changing economic summit after the second world war (in the late 1940's). Being asked what happened, he responded with "They're trying to set it up so that they'll put all of us, everyone, permanently in debt forever." or something to that effect.

I've been trying to relocate it with no success to see how much of it was misunderstood by my personal opinions that I may have put into his comment. Does anyone recall anything about this? Was it just a specific temporal non-issue or something more on a grander somewhat conspiratorial scale?

Re:We are being bred for slavery. (1)

cavreader (1903280) | about 2 months ago | (#47218461)

He was talking about the US being saddled with paying for the lions share of the post-war recovery efforts.

Re:We are being bred for slavery. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47220209)

It's precisely because the middle class sleeps. They are glorified slaves of the great powers and turn a blind eye to injustice, not aware they are the next in line to be eaten alive.

Wishful thinking (1)

TWX (665546) | about 2 months ago | (#47217911)

...with the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests earlier this month â" an event the Chinese government wants no one to remember.

It's nice to want things.

Thing about it is, if China's ruling party could hold on to power without committing further abuses then time would probably actually be on their side for forgetting about Tiananmen. After all, my own country committed terrible atrocities throughout its existence and we simply look at those transgressions in a historical context, but between limiting the amount of time that our leaders are in power (at least the President) and peacefully transitioning between those leaders makes it easier to let go. China doesn't have any of that going for them.

Re:Wishful thinking (1, Insightful)

donscarletti (569232) | about 2 months ago | (#47219139)

limiting the amount of time that our leaders are in power (at least the President) and peacefully transitioning between those leaders makes it easier to let go. China doesn't have any of that going for them.

I call bullshit. Jiang Zenmin: General secretary of CCP 1989 - 2002, PRC Chairman 1993 - 2003, Hu Jintao: General Secretary of CCP 2002 - 2012, PRC Chairman 2003 - 2013, Xi Jinping: General Secretary of CCP 2012 -, PRC Chairman 2013 - notice a pattern? Maximum of 2 terms for both positions, 5 years each. Jiang had an extra part term as General Secretary because his predecessor was deposed early. Premier is similar, maximum of 2 terms, 5 years each.

The main difference is only the manner of the leader's choosing.

Anyway, term limits are not enforced in any Westminster style government and they are stronger for it since at no time a leader is in his final term without chance of re-election and the nation may choose to continue with a great leader for as long as he is great. America should really consider getting rid of term limits, since without them Clinton could have been president for the last 22 years as he is not even 70 yet and more than capable of doing a better job than the last two. Consider FDR who

They could have asked me (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47217919)

I lived in China for 10 years. I don't like their censorship but I have to admit, they are very good at it. And they've developed something that the NSA can only wet dream about. I shudder to think how much computing power is used. They don't simply block content, they also modify it (text and images, particularly). For example, if you're looking at some standard western porn (white man fucking a white woman) they run image filters to shrink the penis size. There are some image artifacts but if you weren't familiar with white cock you'd probably mistake them for jpg compression. Interestingly, they don't shrink black cock.

Re:They could have asked me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47218543)

Why is not moderated up or at least funny.

Re:They could have asked me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47218669)

because we dont like ACs?

Re:They could have asked me (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47218923)

Whilst it is a rather subtle troll, and I will admit it made me chuckle, I still do not make it a practice to mod trolls up.

meanwhile, the west buys the same mechanisms... (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47217923)

Before you get your panties in a bunch, i am NOT equating the censorship situation in China to the US.

But here in the west, hundreds of millions fall all over themselves to buy the latest Apple or Android shiny. And what does that mean?

Apple holds an iron grip over what you are permitted to run on your device. So far, they have just used this control to prohibit things that "compete" with other Apple products, or which "violate the harmony of the device", like new launchers, or E-book readers that let you read the Kama Sutra. But it's the same underlying mechanisms of control over computing devices.

Or you buy an Android device, and Google logs everything you ever do with the damn thing. Has all your email. Recordings of your voice. Where you were when.

None of that means we're in the same state as China. But it DOES mean we can get to the same state as China, with but a tiny little step. A small change of government, a public moral panic, a new terrorist attack, whatever the excuse is. We're building all the mechanisms. Then we're buying them like good little sheep.

Maybe we should look to China as a warning for where this goes.

Re:meanwhile, the west buys the same mechanisms... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47218193)

I looked at China and I saw a robust economy, a healthy middle class, and a pro-business, pro-capitalism government. And lots of smart, cute women, too :-)

Re:meanwhile, the west buys the same mechanisms... (4, Interesting)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | about 2 months ago | (#47219371)

Well, the women are awesome. The rest of it? Sure, the government is pro-business and pro-capitalism, except its THEIR business and capitalism. In China the govt officials are the ones with the money, and LOTS of it. Corruption is astronomical. Unless you're in cahoots with some guys with a lot of 'face' you aren't going anywhere, and you can bet they get the fillet mignon cut of whatever you build. It makes the tax rates in the US quite equitable. There's LOTS of red tape too, though of course again how much that matters depends on whom you are connected to. The middle class in China is microscopic. If you were in downtown of a tier 1 city then you might get the impression, surrounded in your nice westerner bubble, that there were lots of well-off people around, but if you actually went out and met the regular Chinese people and talked to the people serving you food and selling you things and made friends with them you'd find out that life for the average chinese is pretty rough. Now go out to the countryside, or even tier 3 cities (prefect level towns for instance) of which there are 1000's and you find there's only a very small veneer of 'middle class' people.

As for the economy being 'robust', the banks all collapsed in the late 90's, ALL of them are insolvent. Most of the major businesses, same thing (the state owned ones). There's a whole zombie financial and economic sector that is just propped up with tax money or patronage in some form or other. There are a lot of businesses, yes, and a huge export sector, lots of growth, etc. There is also 300 million underemployed people, etc. The realestate bubble in China is 10x the size of the US one, and its teetering right now. Frankly I'm out, and I'm getting my g/f out too before something busts loose and it goes down like the US did in '07. Even the big financial analysts are looking pretty scared now. Housing is slowing and China is going to have a big bump.

Re:meanwhile, the west buys the same mechanisms... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47222887)

You know you got a hater when you can substitute "China" with "America" in the post and it still makes perfect sense.

I'm not sure why you are even in China (*bullshit*) if things there are so bad.

Re: meanwhile, the west buys the same mechanisms.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47241603)

Please reread his post. If your reply still makes sense, go back to 5th grade to improve reading comprehension skills.

Re:meanwhile, the west buys the same mechanisms... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47218311)

It's a good point but people don't want to believe that their personal choices can have a harmful effect.

Much adu about nothing (3, Informative)

ebonum (830686) | about 2 months ago | (#47217967)

I live in China. Everyone I know hops the GFW with ease. It is a non-issue on laptops and cell phones.
These guys have a storefront in Shanghai:
http://vpninja.net/ [vpninja.net]
You go to the store, you pay in Chinese currency and they give you a log in. It is fast and reliable.
Lots of people I know use Astrill. (astrill.com)
Of course anyone who is actually worried about security will set up their own server abroad and use putty or OpenVPN to access YouTube.

Agreed (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47219241)

I've spent some time in various parts of China. I simply set up 2 AWS micro instances running SQUID listening only on localhost and then ssh tunneled my laptop into them (I set up several ports for sshd to listen on just in case they blocked one or more). Had no problems. This has been known to work for quite some time reliably. Now and then you'd get a slowdown or your connections would drop, but overall it worked fine. Fire up your SSH client, use the -L option to tunnel a local port over to squid (and the -p option if you need to use an alternate ssh port) and you are all set. I upsed 2 machines just in case they got wise to the first one I'd have a fallback, but they didn't bother it.

Now, a friend of mine that used this technique set up a machine in his basement, and some nice chinese hackers broke into it and rummaged around. So you may find that you COULD get some attention this way, and you probably want to be not-too-foolish about how you utilize your nice little door to the world. In my case I just used it to browse my favorite sites, do some email, and a few things like that.

Its also worth noting that the GFW doesn't seem to do much with non-http protocols. It is known to block most VPN software, but Skype for instance works fine (though again, I wouldn't count on it being safe from prying eyes, and skype is known to leak certain types of information).

Honestly, I think Chinese internet sensorship is intended more to control the information flow INSIDE China and stop people from getting together and DOING anything political. They rarely bother about what people SAY, as long as it isn't "lets get together and club some Communists over the head tomorrow". The other danger is if you talk about specific people, like local officials. Anything that sounds like an actionable complaint is probably unwise. Idle talk OTOH? I don't think they care that much. They might delete it, but basically only a small fraction of Chinese people are stupid enough to bother saying anything like that, or have the time and energy for agitation vs finding gainful employment and some sort of living situation.

Re:Much adu about nothing (2)

whoever57 (658626) | about 2 months ago | (#47219265)

Of course anyone who is actually worried about security will set up their own server abroad and use putty or OpenVPN to access YouTube.

The last time I was there, OpenVPN connections were being blocked, while openvpn had worked perfectly 6 months earlier. In fact, on that trip, all attempts to run openvpn over UDP appeared to be blocked (I even tried port 53). I found that ssh (tcp/22) was not being blocked and used that. Later I found suggestions that playing with the MTU of the openvpn traffic would avoid the blocking.

Another time, dropbox packages for Linux were being blocked, but not the dropbox service.

Summary, GFW blocking is inconsistent and changes day by day.

Re:Much adu about nothing (1)

ebonum (830686) | about 2 months ago | (#47219369)

Yes. The blocking changes all the time, and it changes by location. Sites that work at the office might not work at home. Go to the areas that are closer to Xinjiang (the western parts with more Muslims), and it becomes very difficult to get over the GFW. PPTP works nearly 100% of the time. OpenVPN has more issues. It might work for 30 minutes then cut off, then work fine for a few days, then go off for a week.

Re:Much adu about nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47219437)

VPN is not reliable in China in my experience, I've had two payed services being blocked and two of my own servers at home blocked aswell, oh and the VPNs my clients have in Europe, aren't working any longer.
I've lived in China for a decade and it's getting harder and harder to browse the net.

Bad premise. (1)

Anonymous Psychopath (18031) | about 2 months ago | (#47217969)

...few people outside the country know what it's like to live with those access controls, or how to get around them...

Well, there are the millions that visit China each year, and anyone who's ever bothered setting up a VPN connection so they could FaceTime with family or whatever.

Re:Bad premise. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47218529)

You need a VPN for that? I'm pretty sure that's not true, Skype works in China, except for their official website. If you want to put credits on your account you have to go through the officially authorized division that handles China. Unfortunately, the site lacks SSL for some reason, which is odd seeing as I'm sure that they could just as easily tap in to the back end directly.

Anyways, Skype is available in China legally, so I'm not really sure why FaceTime wouldn't be or why you wouldn't just use Skype and not have to deal with the hassles of using a VPN in the first place.

Re:Bad premise. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47218901)

From my experience GFW within China seems to have varying policies throughout the country. Where some websites will not work in Shanghai for example but will in Shenzhen. This said never had any problems with Facetime anywhere in China. I did have issues with Google Hangouts, but not sure if the statement is still accurate since haven't tried it in a long time. Google+ on mobile phones worked without issues in China for a long time, than again few people I know used it. They started lifting blocks on Google servers starting two days ago, so will see how it pans out.

There is no Great Firewall: (3, Informative)

Hartree (191324) | about 2 months ago | (#47218009)

"And we'll block any web site that says there is!"

I'd like a VPN in to China... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47218195)

I'd like to be able to VPN into china to poke around on the web and see just how much is blocked. Any open services out there that do that?

Re:I'd like a VPN in to China... (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about 2 months ago | (#47218619)

I was thinking the se the other day, it would be interesting to tunnel into china and see what they see

Almost 20 years in China (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47218887)

I have to say the "Not So Great Firewall" is rather sad and thoroughly ineffective. Not to mention most people in China dont even know that China Telecom offers a non throttled service for overseas content. I have been downloading and uploading at impressive figures for a almost 14 years. As for VPN's , Proxies or SSL tunnels in all honesty they all work and they cant block them all.

Censorship makes me laugh because I can find every censored subject just by searching in a non common language. Swear people only think English and Chinese are the only languages in the world.

Another subject is that Chinese officials even laugh at the firewall and even use tunnels as well. The firewall only exists because old out of touch neanderthals are in charge of the censorship and PR Department. When they die off in a few years we will no longer even have to talk about this.

Re:I'd like a VPN in to China... (1)

pix (139973) | about 2 months ago | (#47219427)

Err...exactly what you see.... A few sites are blocked (they return an HTTP error), some sites are just excruciatingly slow (Google sites at present), most are exactly the same. And a VPN solves the first two issues. Do bear in mind that the vast majority of Chinese citizens don't really speak much English, so if you want to see what the locals look at, it would be in Chinese! And the Chinese internet ecosystem is far more vibrant then most countries...taobao, wechat, line, qq, baidu etc etc. Honestly - China is really not that different to anywhere else....in Shanghai (where I live), you would be hard pressed to tell the difference between it and any other large international cities (except that Shanghai has more Maseratis, Porsches, Ferraris, LV shops, high class shopping centers than anywhere else in the world I've been. As an expat, we are most definitely not the rich people.

Re:I'd like a VPN in to China... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47221537)

+10

The olds are still afraid of the evil west. The middle aged couldn't really give a shit. The young are super happy with wechat, sina, qq, weibo, etc, etc.

i accepted my posting with the mantra of 'their house, their rules'. because censorship and the like just went against grain for me. after 10 years here I have very different view.

spend a while living here you start to see why it works. there are so many people, and they have weird mob mentality. A busy shop becomes a crowded one in no time, then queues start forming down the street because if so many people are in there then it must be awesome. minor arguments on the street turn into group a people standing around the two people watching and commenting, which in turn attracts more people.

meanwhile there is just unstoppable spirit to make a buck and get ahead in some people that leads to either; really great, if a tad tyrannical, businessmen or really sharp criminals. the cops are so apathetic, paid off, or overloaded that they tend to only go after serious things or whatever is on the 'crackdown list' for this week.

consequentially if.. no not if, *when* public outrage about something gets out of hand it can very very quickly escalate into something that ultimately risks screwing it up for everyone. the reform and opening up process is necessary slow to avoid social and economic problems.

the smart locals also know the GFW 'protects' the local internet services, which is turning out really good for china.

to top all this off, i'm finally preparing to return home to my country next year. my buddy asked me what i'd miss the most about china. After a bit of thought I answered: the freedom.

Re:I'd like a VPN in to China... (1)

ruir (2709173) | about 2 months ago | (#47218697)

Ask any Russian guys, they (p)own plenty of XPs in China.

Re:I'd like a VPN in to China... (2)

Zanadou (1043400) | about 2 months ago | (#47219019)

Not exactly what you're asking for, but similar:

http://www.blockedinchina.net/ [blockedinchina.net]

http://www.greatfirewallofchina.org/ [greatfirewallofchina.org]

http://www.websitepulse.com/help/testtools.china-test.html [websitepulse.com]

http://viewdns.info/chinesefirewall [viewdns.info]

What about Thailand? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47218723)

Strict censorship of the net, check! Suppression of video evidence of the army massacre of unarmed civilians in 2010, check!
Arrests of protestors, check! Missing 300+ people, arrested and never released, check! Setting up their own social network.. and planning to block Facebook.. check!

The place is more like North Korea every day. With it's own tinpot dictator in military uniform.

I'm in reading this from China right now. (2)

Bleek II (878455) | about 2 months ago | (#47218803)

I'm a chemistry teacher at a private school in Kunming, China. I use a VPN to get around. First of all half the battle is the terrible infrastructure here. I use a VPN to access everything I need to but I am constantly in a battle to stay connected with my 1Mb/s 500ping connection. If you don't have a VPN you are pretty crippled for most common sites like Google and social media. BTW Slashdot works fine without a VPN.

Re:I'm in reading this from China right now. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47219735)

That's because you live in the middle of nowhere (Kunming). In Beijing and Shanghai you can get 100 Mbps "home" packages for ~$70/month.

Re:I'm in reading this from China right now. (1)

Bleek II (878455) | about 2 months ago | (#47219781)

I've come from nowhere to nowhere, and I'm going nowhere. I never much cared for the illusion of somewhere full of somebodies full of themselves. That's just how I flow.

Re:I'm in reading this from China right now. (1)

Rick in China (2934527) | about 2 months ago | (#47219921)

Don't feed the troll mate. :D Regardless of the connection package, our VPN restriction (I'm assuming you use a European or North American server) largely comes down to geography..so the 1Mbit 8Mbit 20Mbit 100Mbit packages offered by the telecoms here largely end up with similar ping and sometimes similar bandwidth over VPN at the end of the day. In-country direct connections, however, the advertised speed is much closer to being realized..

No porn allowed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47219039)

So a lot of the popular porn sites were blocked when I was there last year, but luckily the new TLDs hadn't made it to their radar yet so a site like porn.xxx wasn't blocked :P

Most companies set up web proxies at minimum. (1)

Rick in China (2934527) | about 2 months ago | (#47219283)

Some set up constant tunnels. Personally I use StrongVPN when not at my office or on office network, so it's sorta like this: Most of my internet use does not involve a proxy OR VPN, and is perfectly fine. When I need YouTube or Hulu or something, I open StrongVPN L2TP through San Fran. When I'm at work I'm typically going thru a proxy for common services we use like google services or whatever and need no configuration on whichever device I am using. My network connection at home is 20mbit fibre, typically when I'm NOT on VPN I can download torrents or stream videos from non-youtube sources fast, when I AM on VPN I can typically stream high quality YouTube/Hulu without buffering issues..gotta have me some Shark Tank! I've been primarily in China since 2003, and can tell you - for anyone slightly technically inclined, the GFW is not an issue, and never really has been.. the occasional biggest problem is when they try to disrupt encrypted traffic and it grinds VPNs to a snailmail pace.

Not really an issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47219391)

I've lived in Shanghai for three years. Yes - certain sites are blocked, but as other posters have said, there are plenty of VPN solutions that get round it. I use Astril, and there's a little bit of traffic shaping that goes on that means you may need to switch VPN servers once in a while, but other than that the biggest problem is when everybody in my apartment block tries to stream from Netflix at the same time!! And that's not a China problem. We're lucky, we have high bandwidth fibre broadband to our apartment, and assuming we don't have a contention problem I can stream Netflix and BBC iPlayer fron the UK via my VPN. Occasionally we have to give up, but not often. At the moment Google isn't so much blocked as unbearably slow (that's often the symptom, not a real block) - but again the VPN solves that problem. It's a minor irritant, but really nothing more. I suspect that it's far worse in places like Saudi Arabia.

What's this internet thing you speak of? (3, Informative)

evilviper (135110) | about 2 months ago | (#47219411)

few people outside the country know what it's like to live with those access controls

It seems a strange sentiment to express, on a technical site.

I've never been to China, and yet I know EXACTLY what their internet access is like. Anyone here can find out for themselves in 10 minutes flat, by hopping on a proxy located in China, and surfing around.

The only extra bit of knowledge that I gained through my extensive time dealing with it, is how incredibly random, frequently changing, and therefore frustrating and utterly-pointless the IP bans are. Send enough traffic over an IPSec tunnel in a short enough period of time, and expect it to be suddenly blocked one day, only to work again in just a few days.

Re:What's this internet thing you speak of? (2)

kamapuaa (555446) | about 2 months ago | (#47219619)

Send enough traffic over an IPSec tunnel in a short enough period of time, and expect it to be suddenly blocked one day, only to work again in just a few days.

This. It's totally arbitrary. Also it's a two-tier system, where many things are easily proxied around, while some sites (pornography, Falun Gong, Tian'anmen) can't be.

I think mostly the point is to inconvenience and be protectionist rather than block. Sure you can get on twitter if you really want, but your average Joe in China doesn't want to bother figuring out proxies just to get some stupid cat picture, so they turn to Weibo or some wannabe-twitter site like that instead.

The Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon (2)

PapayaSF (721268) | about 2 months ago | (#47220075)

Another way the Chinese evade censorship is to use oblique terms and references, many of which are quite funny. The Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon [chinadigitaltimes.net] is a compilation of them. (In Mandarin, "grass-mud horse" sounds very close to "fuck your mother" and is a way of evading and poking fun at censorship of vulgar content.)

Re:The Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon (2)

Rick in China (2934527) | about 2 months ago | (#47220199)

Tried tested and failed. China constantly cracks down on new 'evasive' methods of communicating. This year they used tons of other phrases, and were promptly blocked, like "this day" or "may 35th" or "that day" or "spring to summer" or other various 'elusive' terms...blocked. In addition they tried to hide messages in porn. This is all part of the tit-for-tat that, well, often just ends in more and more blockage and nothing more.

Re:The Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47222311)

I'm going to just say it now. China is stupid. Not the people of China really, but the government is pants-on-head retarded.

They banned the phrase "May 35th". What about "April 65th", "March 96th", "February 124th", or "January 155th"? What about "July -26th" or "July 339th"?

Sure, a good calendar will sort it out quickly, but which calendar? Gregorian? Julian? Hebrew? Are they going to ban "Sivan 1, 1989"? (Pentecost is on Sivan 6, which was June 9th that year.) What about every number between "612921600" and "613007999", since those are the starting and ending Unix epoch timestamps for that date?

Banning the mere mention of historical fact just makes you a backwater twatwaffle country like North Korea. Only a moron of a country would want to be North Korea, where the entire country's history is comprised of the bad fever dreams of their stubby little despot.

Since China seems to want to pretend that reality didn't happen and that someone's imagination is real, that pretty much proves that China is stupid. If they're going for the whole 1984-esqe information control thing, they're doing a piss-poor job of it. It's out of their control, it's out of their ability to control, and they just look stupid to everybody that isn't them. Except Kim Jong Un (and Kim Jong Tiss!), who thinks it's perfectly normal to act like an insane crybaby in front of a world that is laughing.

Re:The Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47222553)

I know that since you posted as AC your words will get hidden and it will seem like nobody will ever see it, so I wanted to let you know I legitimately enjoyed reading it. "...where the entire country's history is comprised of the bad fever dreams of their stubby little despot" gave me the giggles.

A Google Free Internet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47220393)

A Google free internet? Sign me up! China is looking better and better every day.

fools (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47220529)

The government isn't blocking Tienanmen square because they want people to forget, they are blocking it because it never happened. It's western propaganda by the united states. So rather than try to avoid the law and be a criminal why don't you be a constructive member of society and not partake in these western provocations.

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