The following interview is with a Chinese citizen who wishes to remain anonymous. “Anon” found this blog through Wikipedia and contacted me following my coverage of Chinese government corruption. Here is a fascinating look at internet censorship from inside China.
“6.4” refers to Tiananmen Square, and “F lg” refers to Falun Gong. “Anon” does not type these full words in email. I also want to point out that “anon” notes it is American companies who are responsible for building much of the technology that powers the Great Firewall of China.
Jon: How do Chinese access Wikipedia?
Anon: Chinese are able to access wikipedia using a proxy or something like Tor. This is a side effect of government censorship. But this is somewhat time consuming, so we won’t do it everyday, and not everyone likes wiki.
There are at least 3 levels of censorship:
1. Blocking the domain name. It is easy to counter, one can just type the correct ip.
2. Blocking the ip, then we need a proxy
3. The routers will unpack the http packets to check them automatically, so we need Tor.
Wikipedia is in the second category, but Tor works with it too. Unfortunately wikipedia can’t be edited through a proxy.
Jon: What is Tor?
Anon: See you don’t know it? Cause you don’t have to deal with censorship 🙂 .
Tor is “An anonymous Internet communicating system”. Actually there are many of them. It is not the commonly used one, but I won’t name the others.
Jon: Why Do You Think ValueWiki is Blocked in China?
Anon: I can’t find out why they block ValueWiki. I don’t think you have any topic which will interest CCP firewall. They only block those talking about politics, and the blocked site are usually famous (in politics) or in Chinese. May be it is a mistake, or because your ISP hosts another site which is blocked, or back luck.
Jon: How Much is the CCP Censoring the Internet in China?
Anon: They block many sites but I think they fail to block information. Also CCP LOVES the Internet, so they can’t block it entirely. Also thanks to techniques provided by American companies, they can go for this solution.
There is a new phenomenon in recent two or three years, many Chinese talk freely on Internet. Internet is always more free then other medium but I mean even main Internet portals like sina.com are somewhat free now. The government no long tries to cover disaster death numbers. Scholars, lawyers criticize corruption, tax collectors, one-child policy openly. The comments under those topics are even more brave. If you can read Chinese, you may find you can’t believe what you see in a Communism country.
Also you can find Maoism zealots on the internet too, while it is not very easy to find one in normal life, maybe it is the nature of Internet.
Jon: What Information Gets Censored in China?
Anon: I think the key is: CCP isn’t zealot of Marxism, it doesn’t censor internet to protect communism, instead it do it to protect its current member’s interest. So something you may think they should censor, but they don’t, something else you may think they shouldn’t, but they will. And the system is not managed by a single person, so the rules may be different in different cases.
The topics about 6.4, F lg are among the topics ranked top in the black list. You don’t have to be blocked if you talk about Mao.
Jon: Do American companies engage in censorship?
Anon: The system uses man power to review sites, and also employs automatic checking by using some “cutting edge” techniques provided by US companies. It may be the biggest use case of “advanced firewall techniques”.
Censorship gives some local companies advantage over their American counterpart, because they can adapt to it more easily. For example, although there is not public papers talking about it (who dare to talk publicly about this after all), I believe this untold secret is one of the reasons why Baidu.com can be ” the only company kicks google’s ass on earth”. If someone use google to search something, it can crash due to censorship. This is very annoying, especially when the searcher may just want to find some normal sites. Baidu doesn’t have this problem because its system “cleans” the results at its core. Baidu can also have better “government relationship” due to this. Also there are many Internet rumors accusing google is censoring the Internet, from those who don’t understand what is happening. It seems to be the case because google will crash while baidu will give some results.
Jon: Can you talk about Google.cn?
Anon: Google.cn is a “cleaned” search engine like those provided by Chinese companies.
But one will try to use a proxy if he believe Google can provide more information, he will use baidu.com if he don’t care censorship. So no one use it, actually many Chinese don’t know there is Google.cn.
If someone tries to search some blocked sited using google, the browser will redirect to google.cn sometimes, but most time it will simply crash.
Jon: When I was in Yunnan, I heard frequent rumors of Chinese journalists disappearing for publishing articles critical of the CCP. Can you confirm this?
Anon: I heard this, but I can’t “confirm” it because what I got are rumors too. I can only say I believe CCP can do this and have done this, but they do this less then before. If they will arrest everyone who have wrote articles critical of CCP, they really need much more prisons to hold them.
And you don’t need to worry about your personal security in China, Americans are at the top of CCP’s “human importance ranking”, following by other foreigners.
Jon: When I was in China, I was amazed at how many people were learning English and interested in America. How do you think people in China feel about America?
Anon: It is easy to tell that Chinese love American culture. You have seen it. American movies, songs, TV shows, pc games are very popular . NBA has MANY fans here. And I think globalization is more welcome there than other developing country, globalization sometimes means American style, at least here.
American politics? It is harder to tell. While Chinese are impressed by American wealth for decades, and now average Chinese begin to admire American democracy, China is still defined as “competitor” by big brother Bush, and he is not popular. You can expect there are some die hard communism zealots too.
Jon: Do you believe China will someday Have Democracy?
Anon: Sure China will have Democracy someday, isn’t every American supposed to believe Democracy will dominate all the world 🙂 ? Many Chinese believe democracy is the true solution, and I have reason to believe that poorer Chinese believe this even more cause they hate CCP much more than richer people. But you have to understand that because Chinese was living in miserable conditions for centuries, and they life are just getting better and getting somewhat freedom, so an armed revolution is not a good idea. After all, if most people can’t get true information, this type of revolution will surely create a new Mao. CCP itself seized the power in the name of democracy by fooling people.
Better life is why China didn’t collapse as someone wished, it is also the reason of why Chinese want democracy more than ever. Chinese live better in recent two years, and can get more information freely. The government give out some information which was censored in past year. For example, it is a high rank officer who pointed out that the government wastes more money on itself (30% of government spending) than the sum of Chinese education, medication, technical spending. I mean current government is not worse than the old one. But why Chinese criticize government more then ever years? I believe it is because when more Chinese can feed themselves they have “luxury” to ask for democracy and equality. Also because the openness of Internet,
it is almost impossible for government to stop all information sources.
I believe better life, better education will cause more people believe in democracy, may be eventually create a democracy government.
Really thanks for you care about China, as you said, I have found many Americans are fascinated with China, are most Americans or I am simply lucky?
Jon: I think most Americans are fascinated with China and look forward to China opening its culture to the world. Thank you for talking with ValueWiki!
April 11, Anon responds: About the relationship between American companies and censorship, I want to say something. The government does need its own stuff to implement some parts of the firewalls, but ip filters, smart firewalls (which can unpack http packages) are invented and provided by Amercian companies. I am not accusing them, if there are not these techniques, maybe the government will simply shut down the Internet. They have tried to shut down google for some days.