China frustrations

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Most days I do pretty good dealing with the frustrations of using the Internet in China. But then there are days like today when I just get frustrated when I know there is good information that I’m missing out on. Like everyone who has a blog at blogger.com. Everytime I go to view a blog hosted at blogger I get a time out message. Doing a quick tracert in MS-DOS shows that the route stops at the Chinese gateway to the world a.k.a. the Super Filter (SF). Then there are others who just happen to have their site hosted on a server that has been blocked. It might not be their site, but someone else’s site on that server maybe blocked and so the SF blocks all sites from that server. So if I do not comment on your blog, it’s not because I don’t want to, it’s because I can’t get there.

Wikipedia is another site that is blocked. I love hearing the conversation around Wikipedia and wish I could check the site out or even have my students use it. But again the SF has it blocked because of content on the site. I have two domain names through Yahoo Small Bussiness and neither one of them is accessable here in China (www.thethinkingstick.com and www.mrutecht.com)because they run through a geocities server. All geocities servers and sites are blocked by the SF. I’ve contacted Yahoo about it on a number of occations and their response is always the same:

Thus, I would recommend you to contact the Government-Connected “Internet Society of China” and concerned ISP’s for further assistance, to get your website registered.


I’ve e-mailed the Internet Society of China 3 times now without a response.

Google and Yahoo have been coming under heavy fire lately from everyone including the U.S. government about making changes to their system to comply with Chinese laws. I can’t say I blame either company; right or wrong there are over a billion people in this country who are starting to get access to the Internet. And when ADSL is $12/month we’re not talking slow connections. We are talking a population with some serious bandwidth. As a stock holder in Google (.4 shares…I’m a teacher remember!) I’m glad they are complying with the Chinese regulation. There is money to be made here and heaps of it, and of course everyone knows that the first company in gets the biggest piece of the pie.

So that brings me to this question: What is the U.S. government hoping to accomplish by having hearings with Google and Yahoo and the rest of the gang? Do they really think that if Google and Yahoo do not offer their services in China that the Chinese government might change its filtering ways? Information is powerful, but I’m not sure it is powerful enough to make the fastest growing economy in the world change. This country is focused on the future, and I have a feeling things like this they just laugh at in Beijing. Now if we could get Wal-Mart (Whose Asian base of operations is here in Shanghai) to stop buying Chinese made goods and hit the economy hard then Beijing might start paying attention. In his book The World is Flat, Friedman ends by putting forth the Dell Theory. Now if companies like Dell started pulling their supply chains out of China that might have an effect as well. At this point I do not see services such as what Google and Yahoo offer having an effect on the government’s policy of information filtering. I of course could be completely wrong, but from where I’m sitting here in the middle of Shanghai working over a government subsidized $12/month ADSL line and updating the ring tones on my government ran cellular system mobile phone, I just don’t see it.

P.S. If this is the last posting, the SF got me!

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I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.

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