â€œThe Connection Has Been Resetâ€
I get asked from time to time what the deal is with the “Great Firewall of China.” I’ve personally observed some blockages — primarily blog networks (blogger, wordpress.com) and intermittent outages of things like Flickr and YouTube. When I’ve beefed the China hands tell me it is no big deal, everyone knows how to get around it. Using proxies I imagine. James Fallows, the preeminent American journalism working out of China, has a good piece in the current Atlantic Monthly about Internet censorship. I am not surprised to see him report — through anonymous sources — that visitors will experience no issues during the Summer Games.
“In reality, what the Olympic-era visitors will be discovering is not the absence of Chinaâ€™s electronic control but its new refinementâ€”and a special Potemkin-style unfettered access that will be set up just for them, and just for the length of their stay. According to engineers I have spoken with at two tech organizations in China, the government bodies in charge of censoring the Internet have told them to get ready to unblock access from a list of specific Internet Protocol (IP) addressesâ€”certain Internet cafÃ©s, access jacks in hotel rooms and conference centers where foreigners are expected to work or stay during the Olympic Games. (I am not giving names or identifying details of any Chinese citizens with whom I have discussed this topic, because they risk financial or criminal punishment for criticizing the system or even disclosing how it works. Also, I have not gone to Chinese government agencies for their side of the story, because the very existence of Internet controls is almost never discussed in public here, apart from vague statements about the importance of keeping online information â€œwholesome.â€)”