According to our usual source out west, it just might be:
As of midnight last Friday, February 5th, it was announced that 27 more “outside Xinjiang” websites have been opened in addition to the four sites that were already accessible. After spending this past weekend searching over all these sites I can tell you that progress has been made, although each of them loads quite slowly. What’s more…one of them doesn’t load at all (the China Rail site received a “Connection Interrupted”)….
A Look at What’s New
The sites can be divided into about 9 different categories and although a few of them offer alternative languages like English, none of them represents a foreign-based business. I’ve categorized them as follows:
* 7 News Sites (including China Daily and CCTV)
* 4 Travel Sites (including Ctrip and Air China)
* 3 Business & Finance Sites
* 3 Telecom Sites (all three major Chinese carriers)
* 2 Shopping Sites (including Taobao, China’s version of eBay)
* 2 Computer Service Sites (so you can update your anti-virus)
* 2 Gaming Sites (more flash games…yippee)
* 2 Education Sites (study materials for students and help for teachers)
* 1 Fashion Site
Unlike Sina and Sohu (which underwent heavy censorship), each of these sites when viewed in Xinjiang seems to match those viewed outside. However, as is the rule in Xinjiang for now, all email and forum capabilities are disabled.
(Emphasis added.) What’s odder than the government announcing the formal unblocking of sites are the sites that still aren’t available, such as the central government’s.
The tone of the post is decidedly pessimistic. Xinjiang’s Internet is still tightly controlled, and there is no expectation of an open Internet (i.e., an Internet that’s as open as in the other side of the country) any time soon, if ever.
Right now the difference between internet in Xinjiang and the rest of China is determined by the way we describe the censorship. Throughout most of China people explain the Great Firewall by the number of sites which have been blocked; in Xinjiang we count how many sites have been unblocked. That’s a huge difference.
I may head back to China for a quick visit, and that’s always the one thing I dread most – getting used to the censorship. I know, I know, Witopia. I’m definitely installing it before I leave.
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.