The block continues

I have to say, at this moment my loathing of the CCP is approaching 2003 levels. Between the block of my site and the ongoing weakness of the Chinese Internet, which I expect to go on through October, from home it takes a full five to ten minutes for me to get onto my site using a proxy. Then ever 20 minutes or so, the proxy insists on directing my browser to its advertisers’ links, each one taking another eternity to load. It just took me about an hour to put up the last post, more than 20 minutes of which were spent waiting and then dealing with the proxy.

In his superb interview with NPR’s Fresh Air a few months ago, Atlantic columnist James Fallows said the firewall worked by grinding people down, wearing them out so that eventually they say to hell with it and go to some other site, one that isn’t blocked. He was so spot on. For the past two weeks I’ve only made occasional spot visits to the site, not wanting to go through all the aggravation. (And for some reason this is true mainly in regard my home connection; at work and at coffee shops with wifi it has been slow but nothing like the way it is at home.)

My heart really goes out to all the bloggers on the left sidebar like Mark in China, Inside Out China, China Beat and all other blogspot sites. Nothing is as irritating as wanting to communicate with the people you know and not being allowed to do so. The fact that there’s no ostensible reason, that the decision to block seems totally random and irrational – well, that’s just salt rubbed into the wounds. Meanwhile, site traffic is down 50 percent from two weeks ago and I feel like throwing in the towel.

That said, I won’t throw in the towel. My plan is to keep posting until the TAM posts drift onto the next page. Then, if the ban continues I have plans in place to move to a new server. If after that they continue to block the site, we’ll know this is somebody’s decision and not just some mindless computer-generated censorship. I try to be fair about censorship here; the truth is, most Chinese are delighted to see all the options the Internet brings them after so many years of isolation and insulation. They see the glass as more than half full. But when it’s you who are being censored, it’s hard to feel objective about the censorship. Whether the Chinese people like it or not, it’s still an insidious form of mind control, and a symbol of the party’s deeply embedded sense of inferiority and helplessness.

______________

Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 42 Comments

Don’t give up – it’s worth it!

June 22, 2009 @ 1:40 am | Comment

If it’s taking you an hour to post something, you should try tor. If you use it for a large enough percentage of your internet use, it tends to speed up enough that it could easily be called tolerable.

June 22, 2009 @ 2:01 am | Comment

hello, have you tried getting an unix/linux account somewhere? You can then forward your port 80 (if you don’t have linux, you can use PUTTY) on your local machine to the remote SSH box (on port 80). This way you don’t have to go through a “commercial” proxy. May be faster, but I’m not sure. Definitely you won’t get any ads, though. It’s functionally the same thing as proxy-ing through VPN and may require less resources.

Also, with an unix account, you can use lynx–a text browser. Lynx will cut down all the graphics and *may* make a faster browsing experience. That is if, say, you only care about getting around the censors–so you can update–and is fine with just doing it all in text. It ought work. Definitely no surfing 4 porn.

June 22, 2009 @ 3:17 am | Comment

On the Issues of Mathematical Singularity and Freedom

If you are well grounded in Complex Analysis, you know that the analytic function of a complex function, as long as it’s analytic, is differentiable at any order. In a way, we can interpret this as a type of “total freedom”. Because “analytic” implies “differentiability”, that is, you are capable of doing something. And differentiable at any order means you are “infinitely and completely” free.

However, analytic functions often have singularity, which is a point on the function that is not differentiable. For example the function:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/math/3/3/b/33b70d5cf7560cbf8bc219d7bd93a32a.png

is not differentiable at x=0. We can also interpret it as the function is not free on that point. In reality, analytic functions form a field, could be a field of airflow, a field of magnetic force, a field of fluid flow, etc. In that field, except for certain singularities, all other places are free. So we’ll call those certain unfree points singularities.

For example, if I immigrated to North Korea and was asked by the local government to shout “Long Live Kim Jung Il”. Then I have to ask the gov’t, how many times per day must I shout it? If it’s only once per month, then I will happly comply. But what I am more interested in is, if I comply by this demand, what about my freedom in other aspects? If this is the only demand, and there’s no further restriction on my other freedoms, then I have no problem with it at all. This is just a certain singularity.

If I were to move to Iran, and was asked to shout: “Long Live the Allah!”. Then I will ask the local Iranian authority, other than this demand, what other restrictions are there on my freedom? If there are no significant other rstrictions, and living in Iran offer me benefits like opporutnity to get rich, to live richer lives. Then again, this demand to shout Long Live the Allah is only a singularity, and is totally ok by me, especially that I am not a religious person anyway.

Therefore, if we view any society as a field of a analytic function, then it has areas of freedom, and singularities. And to judge how free a society is, one must judge it comprehensively, and take into account the majority characteristic of the field. If there are certain singularities but do not significantly effect a person’s life, then their existence should be considered totally OK. And perhaps their existence is a way to ensure the freedom in other aspects. For example, if there is a room in which you are allowed to walk freely, but there is a column inside the room, of course you are not free to walk into that column. The space occuped by that column are the singularities. Now, will you protest and say “This is violation of human rights! Violation of freedom! Remove the column! Let me walk everywhere in the room!”. Well, if we remove the column, the room will collapse, if the room collapses, you’ll die, losing all your freedoms on 99% of the room’s space.

In a country like North Korea, or Iran, or even China. Most citizens do not have the urge to shout “Death to my government!” everyday. Most of them are busy with their lives like working on their jobs, eating food, doing household chores, etc. So the lack of freedom to shout: “Death to my government” is just a singularity, does not effect the total characteristic of the field. Of course, if you are someone who must shout this everyday, or you’ll suffer a seizure or cardiac arrest, then you should visit a doctor immediately, this could be the symptom of serious illness.

June 22, 2009 @ 4:05 am | Comment

I am more and more convinced that Math is a computer program.

Does anyone has a Turing test at hand?

June 22, 2009 @ 4:43 am | Comment

Awful lots of folks in Iran shouting “death to the government” right now, in any case.

June 22, 2009 @ 4:55 am | Comment

It seems Iran is going to be blocked in China….

June 22, 2009 @ 5:55 am | Comment

@Richard

Maybe it is time to write or call your representative Richard.

I would encourage any US citizens and organization with blogs blocked by the GCF(tm) to do the same.

We should do the same here in the EU, but the EU parliament is not representative enough… yet. Still, I will try to address the CH general censorship issue from here Not expect too much, but every little helps.

With the last developments: Olympic games unfulfilled promises, TIA blockade, Green Dam, Google witch hunt, etc. It may be the right time to stir things a bit.

I am not a CCPLogist (neither was I a kremlinologist in the past) but from what I see it seems some strange tectonic plate movements are taking place. Some power struggle? Is current censorship movements collateral effects of some power playing at high levels?

Time to bring some new players at the higher ground. The time maybe ripe for the attempt.

Hadn´t Obama presidency a web site for requests too…?

June 22, 2009 @ 1:39 pm | Comment

Hi Richard,

Like another person who commented pointed out, I think proxies aren’t the only choice (you probably already know that). You might like to read this, another expat who kindly wrote down all possible options for bypassing the GFW.

http://www.randomwire.com/2009/06/02/how-to-bypass-the-great-firewall-of-china/comment-page-1/

Kiak

June 22, 2009 @ 2:45 pm | Comment

Richard,

If you really want to get the block removed, I suggest you go to the censor office at 9 Dongdajie, Qianmen to confront them.

There are reasons why today’s China has so many “mass incidents” – Chinese people routinely take to the street because they think it is the most effective way to get the government’s attention. The louder the noise, the higher the probability of CCP actually solving their problems.

You surely remember that, last month, several elders block the traffic of the CBD for the whole morning just because the lifts in their apartment building were not working.

You are in China, so be a Chinese. Take a protesting board with you and threaten to make a scene if the censor office does not give you a satisfactory answer.

I’m serious. There is a reasonable chance you can get this problem solved.

June 22, 2009 @ 4:02 pm | Comment

I have tried Tor, found it so slow it drove me crazy. I will try some of the other methods some of you mentioned. I’ve heard of all of them, but blocked sites here were never a crisis for me; I was always able to get around the GFW relatively easily. Now, with the slowdown in my Internet speed at home, it’s a crisis and I have to try something new. Will let you know how it goes.

Sunset, I am going to be in China about a few weeks, and I probably won’t be making the trip to visit the censor. If I were staying indefinitely I might be tempted. As it is, the problem will solve itself when I leave my apartment in the very near future.

June 22, 2009 @ 4:10 pm | Comment

@oiasunset

A Peking ducks mass incident!?

I hope it gets uploaded in Youtube ;-)

June 22, 2009 @ 4:32 pm | Comment

Hey Richard which proxy are you using? i am using Freegate 6.84, its usually pretty fast. you can dl it at http://www.internetfreedom.org.

June 22, 2009 @ 5:09 pm | Comment

if you want freegate to work with firefox:
1)Tool,option
2) click on Advanced tap, select setting
3) check manual proxy configuration
4) on HTTP proxy: 127.0.0.1 port: 8580

No ads and no porn…bummer to the latter!

June 22, 2009 @ 5:15 pm | Comment

Richard,

What kind of analytics do you have on your site? Google Analytics?

It would be good to be able to answer some questions on the effect of a GFW block on site traffic:
1. what percent of total traffic has decreased?
2. what percent of China origin traffic has decreased?
3. is there any other change in usage? (e.g. pageviews per visit have dropped, or more people leave after 1 visit)
4. any change in the source of your traffic?

etc etc. It would at least make for an interesting post for other China English bloggers.

June 22, 2009 @ 6:27 pm | Comment

My original site (www.joe-cool.dk) got blocked too some time ago. Had no luck finding out what caused it.

At first I thought it had to do with an article I wrote about horses and how we “help em breed”, but after removing that nothing happened. It must have been a block on the URL/IP, so cleaning up my content didn’t help at all.

At last I caved and bought a new domain almost similar to the old one. So far it seemed to solve the problem, but very annoying to be forced to switch because net nanny find you naughty.

I might ad that I wrote extremely few politically inspired entries before the block, so it seemed pretty random.

Hop you’re luckier Richard.

June 22, 2009 @ 7:57 pm | Comment

NJ, I’ve been using hotspot shield. It’s ad-driven but usually I can deal with that. The true source of the misery, along with the site being blocked, is the slowness of my connection. Until a few weeks before June 4 it ripped – it was like I was in the US. Now it is so slow I literally lose heart and simply turn the PC off. The slow connection combined with Hotspot’s maddening feature that usurps your PC and pushes you to click their links adds up to a perfect storm of misery.

Elliot, let me see if I can come up with some answers. I don’t use any any analytics that I know of aside from my site meter because this is just a hobby for me and I don’t usually invest time analyzing traffic. But I do know that well over half my traffic over the past couple of years comes from China, and that all traffic is down over 50 percent since the block started on June 9.

Meanwhile I’ll keep trying some of these other solutions people have recommended.

June 22, 2009 @ 10:19 pm | Comment

I just installed Freedur, works well and no ads. That will save me a lot of grief, allowing me to post without having toi wait forever and having the screen highjacked by hotspot shield ads and their atrocious search engine. Thanks for the tip.

Now, onto the block itself.

June 23, 2009 @ 10:14 am | Comment

I know where you’re coming from, Richard. The blocking is so childish.

It sounds like Beijing’s internet access is a lot worse than Xi’an’s. While not blazing fast, I’m surfing at about the same pace as usual. And by using either proxyboxonline or zend2 I can surf alright on here and my blog. You might try those proxies. Although it sounds like your problem isn’t as related to the proxy as it is slow internet access.

June 23, 2009 @ 3:51 pm | Comment

Mark, I think the big problem I am having at home has to do with my physical building. At work and elsewhere it’s back to normal. At home it’s at the point where I can barely use the Internet at all, let alone download a file. I may just have to deal with it for the next few weeks until I go home, and do more blogging at work (don’t tell anyone).

June 23, 2009 @ 4:22 pm | Comment

Just use a VPN. There are so many of them out there (www.witopia.net, http://www.strongvpn.com etc) Ok, its not free like a proxy but not outrageously expensive either and they work really quickly. Infact they are often quicker than it would have been without using a VPN as the firewall cannot inspect the data packets so just lets it all through.

June 23, 2009 @ 7:38 pm | Comment

We won’t tell! ;)

June 23, 2009 @ 8:51 pm | Comment

Greg, I just started using one after using hotspot shield for more than a year. It’s way better, but nothing can increase my Internet speed at home. I just have to deal with it. And the block is just so annoying, because even if we have the tools to get around it, a lot of people in China either don’t know or don’t want to be bothered using them, and thus whenever I get blocked traffic drops like a rock.

June 23, 2009 @ 9:30 pm | Comment

Richard,
Much sympathy on being blocked, but it sounds like your other problems similar to ones I experienced. I’m a regular reader, though rarely comment, but I seem to recall you use a mac…is that right?

I was using Safari and Hotspot quite happily until late May/early June (or possibly earlier) and suddenly started having problems. Hotspot had been fine; it loaded the banner ads reasonably quickly and I could just close them with a click of the little cross that appeared in the top right. Then Hotspot started to take over and, no matter what I did, kept sending me to that inane/insane search engine page. It all became impossible and I just stopped using Hotspot and started to think about coughing up for a proper VPN. Then Safari started messing me around. Certain pages would take an age to load, or just never finish loading. These were often sites I regularly visited.

My first move was to reset my ADSL modem and wireless router (leaving it off for a while) and I also switched to Firefox. I don’t quite recall why I did both of these things but it all pretty much settled down and even Hotspot returned to its previous performance. I’ve just checked with Safari (first time I’ve used the new version, which might help date the problems I was having) and it seems to be working fine with Hotpsot now – no more dumb search-window takeover.

If things hadn’t settled down (and I’m not pretending I directly solved the problem) I would have had a go at messing with the MTU settings. I had some problems a couple of years back and eventually I tracked down something about macs not responding to different MTUs in the same way that windows machines do. I’d already called out the internet company and they’d insisted that there was something wrong with my machine, as well as insisting that they’d not changed any of their settings, but I did some tests and tried various combinations of changing MTU values on the Mac or on the router or both. I was quickly back in business.

This seems to address the same problem:

http://tiny.cc/XSbBD

I appreciate none of this is very precise and (as should be pretty obvious) I’m no tech expert, but maybe some of your better-informed readers can help you fill in the blanks.

Do hang in there. I’ll keep finding my way here to read.

June 23, 2009 @ 10:32 pm | Comment

Funny you should say this, Sima – just yesterday I dumped Safari and today I dumped hotspot shield, and now the problem is much, much better. I’ve been hit by a perfect storm of trouble recently, however. Along with the Safari and hotspot issues, my Internet connection has become weak and unstable. Along with being impossibly slow, it now drops off altogether every few minutes, causing me endless grief. And prior to the big slowdown in the weeks before June 4, my connection at home was lightning fast. So now that I switched to firefox and started using freedur instead of hotspot about 70 percent of the problem is over, but the misery of the slow, unstable connection persists, along with the frustration of having my site blocked in China – not my best Internet month. I really appreciate the advice, and it’s quite a coincidence that I did most of what you recommend over the past 24 hours, to considerable success.

Now I just have to get over the bad mood this wave of headaches caused me and get back to blogging again. I know I’ve been delinquent, but these problems made going online a nightmare instead of a pleasure. In some ways, it will feel good to arrive back home in America.

June 24, 2009 @ 12:06 am | Comment

Richard, it’s sad when being jaded is “justified”, but for all those who refused to believe the CCP was changing/had changed well they were right.

Even the best people change their views based on how they’re treated – look at Zhao Ziyang.

June 24, 2009 @ 3:03 am | Comment

@Raj

But let us not mistake the CCP with China or the Chinese people.

June 24, 2009 @ 5:47 am | Comment

HIthere,

I am using a proxy as we speak! Did you try a dedicated IP?

I had problems with my other website and called my host to requested (buy) a dedicate IP and the problem has been solved ever since. It was $5 dollars extra a month, or something like that.

You probably already know all this, but in case you dont . I hope it helps.

Hope you dont give up

June 24, 2009 @ 4:11 pm | Comment

Jamon, I’ll bring it up with my host company. As mentioned, they already reset the IP address; will ask about a dedicated IP. This is Chinese water torture, drip, drip, drip.

June 24, 2009 @ 6:06 pm | Comment

Hi Richard,

The same happened to my blog, and I think it was blocked exactly the same day as yours (but I am not sure because lately I have been off the internet).

The strange thing is I haven’t been writing anything for a month, and even before that, it has been perhaps since March that I don’t do very political stuff. So I suspect you were not blocked because of a particular comment you did last week. You were just blocked because at some point someone decided to go blocking sites that are on the LIST. Everything that you (or others) have ever written here can get you into that list.

I have this LIST idea because I have noticed that at some point a blog attracts the attention of the censors, usually when one of your posts gets big. It happened to me this year when NYT linked to my Charter 08 post, but you must have crossed this line long ago already.

Since then I had strange things happening to my blog, with miniblocks now and then, a perceived slower speed loading, and, of course that particular Charter08 post has been blocked ever since (while the rest of the blog still worked normally). So that is what I mean by the LIST, and though I have no solid proof, I am pretty sure it exists.

Anyway, I wanted to ask you 2 questions:

1- You said you changed your IP of your blog, how do you do that? Is it useful, or is there any other simple way to avoid the block?

2- By any chance are we not using the same host(bluehost)? This might explain some things.

3- Have you experienced or heard of other blogger who has experienced offline hassles following their online block? This has always worried me here, and I was wondering from your many years of China blogging you might know. Not that I think I will be sent to prison or anything, but only a minor consequence such as revoking my Residence permit would cause massive problems in my professional life.

So the GFW did effectively scare me off writing, after all. That’s GFW 1-ULN 0

Anyway, thanks in advance if someone has time to answer some of my questions.

Good luck,
Uln

June 24, 2009 @ 6:53 pm | Comment

Also, since I ask so much I will also answer a bit to give my contribution.

Many of the comments above are focused on the problems that Richard has to connect and publish posts, but like he says these problems will disappear once he moves to Us. And anyway, they are relatively easy to solve even while in China, with a good VPN you almost don’t see the difference in speed.

But of course the real problem is not that. The real problem is how those 70% of readers are going to access the PKD. Because many people are too lazy to go looking for proxies, and chances are a big part of them will be lost.

So I understand the only way (unless someone here know better) is that you change to a new host, but this is something that requires money and time, and ANYWAY, you know the risk is always there that they will block you again and no money back. Perhaps as fast as in one week, if your new posts get popular.

Finally one more contribution for those who may not understand well the GFW. The PKD server is outside China, and therefore, in spite of Richard writing from Beijing, to the censors this is an OUTSIDE blog sending information into the country. The GFW is nothing but a barrier at the entrance that stops this flow from entering China, but this has no effect on users in Spain, US, etc.

Funnily enough, this GFW can actually go both ways, as I was told by the censorship researcher Nard Villeneuve, and technically it is possible and it is already happening that a site hosted within China be blocked to the outside, as some say above.

But of course most sites hosted in China are not blocked by the GFW (this would have no effect on the access to the site by the Chinese, since it would not go through the “border control”) instead they are blocked by the Net Nanny, which is mostly an offline censorship system (the police calls home).

I wrote something that might be helpful about this earlier this year, wait a sec. Here it is: http://chinayouren.com/eng/2009/01/chinese-internet-censorship-explained/

June 24, 2009 @ 7:16 pm | Comment

Thanks for the great comments, Uln. I will think of what to do next – all of this is happening at exactly the wrong time, as I’m preparing to travel and then move back to America.

June 25, 2009 @ 12:00 am | Comment

This is going to getting more and more interesting.

http://tinyurl.com/mf636z

If they dare to block the Pekingduck…. What is Google after all?

June 25, 2009 @ 1:53 am | Comment

Damn!

This is getting…

June 25, 2009 @ 1:55 am | Comment

I use “Jap/JonDo – The Privacy Generator” to circumvent the blocks in an easy and hassle free way. It’s a bit too slow to stream video, but it’s perfectly adequate for accessing regular web pages. I recommend it to anyone who wants a simple, add-free, free solution to the current problems.

June 25, 2009 @ 8:50 am | Comment

Wow, google blocked.

It must have lasted a very short time, this mornning early I was googling and everything was OK.

Probably someone from the googleplex called someone from the guowuyuan last night, and reminded them of how ever more cozy GOooOogle will get with the regime, and of how much their company is already contributing to the censorship.

It was probably just a little signal by Beijing to remind Google of how is in command.

June 25, 2009 @ 11:17 am | Comment

Interesting post about current censorship developments.

The day net nanny got nuts.

http://tinyurl.com/kp9kry

One of the best gems inside.

“NOBODY wants to topple your regime. We take no interest whatsoever in your archaic view of state power and your stale ideological teachings. You do not understand how your grand narrative dissipated in the face of Internetization. You do not understand why appealing to statism and nationalism no longer works. You cannot break free from your own ignorance of the Internet. Your regime is not our enemy. We are not affiliated in any way with any country or organization, and we are not waging this war on any country or organization, not even on you. YOU are waging this war on yourself. YOU are digging your own grave through corruption and antagonization. We are not interested in you, destined for the sewage of history. You cannot stop the Internetization of the human race. In fact, we won’t bat an eyelid even if you decide to sever the transpacific information cables in order to obtain the total control you wanted. The harder you try to roll back history, the more you strain the already taut strings, and the more destructive their final release. You are accelerating your own fall. The sun of tomorrow does not shine on those who are fearing tomorrow itself.”

June 26, 2009 @ 12:02 pm | Comment

[...] to me recently, is Uln hot now? As I was looking around to find an answer, I found out that the Peking Duck blog was blocked more or less in the same time as mine, and was asking the same kind of [...]

June 29, 2009 @ 11:12 am | Pingback

[...] to me recently, is Uln hot now? As I was looking around for an answer, I found out that the Peking Duck blog was blocked more or less at the same time as mine, and it was asking the same kind of [...]

July 4, 2009 @ 9:49 pm | Pingback

You have so many readers, i am sure one of them is in IT, have them allow you to log into a terminal server and from there you can browse the web update anything you want.

July 8, 2009 @ 4:12 am | Comment

[...] Square Incident” with the banning of Chinese and English-language social media sites and it kept getting worse right through the October 1 festivities, with no end in sight to this day. Many had misread the April 20, 2003 press conference as a sign China was ready to open up. In some [...]

December 28, 2009 @ 6:51 am | Pingback

I’m using a vpn service called ibVPn and i’m able to bypass censorship and access blocked websites. http://www.ibvpn.com

March 17, 2011 @ 4:54 pm | Comment

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