Often, folks in the west are concerned about government surveillance of what the general public use their computers and smartphones to do since the big discovery from former US government IT consultant Edward Snowdon.
China’s internet is heavily filtered by the government with much in the way of social media and articles that point out lack of freedom of speech are often invisible to China’s citizens.
In recent times Apple is building a massive data centre to provide online cloud storage that meets the standard of the Chinese government.
I decided to do my own tests whilst I was in China using a) a Lenovo Thinkpad computer which has the bottom held together with tape I got free from my ex-employer, which I upgraded from Windows 8.1 to 10, it contains almost no data and has a poorly performing AMD processor, being a cheap computer I take with me on trips which would be not too much of a tragedy if stolen than a nicer laptop. I also my Motorola Moto G Android phone which is actually owned by Lenovo which are a Chinese company.
I used a VPN program which is a piece of software to make your computer to appear to have an IP address of another location. This is not just for countries hostile to freedom of speech. These apps are used by business people to be able to connect to network drives on the file servers at their employer’s location.
For obvious reasons take great care if you want to blog about your own discoveries, ie: don’t write until you get back home again!
This list was correct in April 2017 when I did the trip, its likely results will change.
These sites work:-
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mao_Zedong (English Wikipedia is ok, but…..)
http://www.bing.com (redirects to http://cn.bing.com/)
https://slashdot.org/ (US based IT news site, reported before on China’s great firewall)
https://www.theregister.co.uk/ (UK based IT site, similar to above)
http://www.korea-dpr.com/ (North Korea government!)
https://www.rt.com/ (Russia today)
https://www.waze.com/en-GB/ (popular Israel based GPS app for phone now owned by Google)
These sites are banned
https://zh.wikipedia.org/ (…Chinese language Wikipedia)
http://www.inspirationalchristians.org/biography/brother-yun/ (Brother Yun is a pioneer of the modern Chinese church)
https://www.mossad.gov.il/ (Israel secret service – this redirects somewhere else??)
https://www.whatsapp.com/ (site doesn’t render properly)
https://www.opendoors.org/ (Christian charity on the persecuted church)
Watching what the public is doing with their computers and/or making content blocked in a country by governments is like an arms war, as technical IT people relish the challenge to find a way around things.
Can you imagine trying to boycott China-made IT kit? I think it would be a case of nah-nah nah nah-nah, we make everything! Also, China’s Great Firewall infrastructure that stops citizens seeing certain things, has equipment made by Cisco who is a US company. Oh well.
- If you want to make sure you are connected before you leave your home country, get all the apps you need first.
- If you have Gmail on your phone. Set up an Outlook account and put it on your phone and get Google to auto-forward mail to the Outlook account and you won’t miss anything.
- Chinese Android phones have no Google Play store. You won’t be able to grab any apps for your own phone while in China. I would avoid buying phones out there, the whole point of the Apps Store is Google vet apps of any malicious stuff in advance before they are published.
- If VPN is really important (ie: you are needing to work while away, you will need to pay for one.) The free ones are ok but are slow and take a while to startup.
- Don’t use your phone or PC to do anything to draw attention to yourself whilst you are in China. Stay safe!!!