Arrived in China

After a long but uneventful trip I’m in China with Melissa Zhuo from Clarement McKenna and Xingtang Wu from Indiana. More later on the content of our meetings but, as you’ll see, it’s a bit of a pain to blog from here.

I like to carry a magazine or two with me on an airplane. They are perfect for the indefinite amount of time between boarding and take-off. My typical favorites are The New Yorker, Harpers and Wired (a guilty pleasure, to be sure). I recently picked up a copy of The Atlantic Monthly, in which James Fallows’ recent article (http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200803/chinese-firewall) describes China’s internet content filtering system in some detail. This piqued my interest, obviously.

I’m staying at a Western hotel chain (Sheraton Great Wall) and getting internet access was simple. It’s a bit slow, but no more so than at some hotels in North America. After sifting through my emails I checked in on my blog to correct an earlier error in a post I had made. I couldn’t get there as the connection timed out. This is one of the behaviors that Fallows’ describes as resulting from one filtering strategy. Essentially if your IP address is on a forbidden list, the Chinese system issues a reset command to both client and server. I can’t be sure that’s what’s happening, but Fallows does say Blogspot is on the IP blacklist. Perhaps WordPress, where I have my blog, is there too.

Next came PlanetSakai. I got there and was able to read most of the posts. But when I tried to go back later I definitely encountered a problem. Instead of friendly images of Sakaiger, Dr. Chuck and Ian Boston, I got redirected to some search page that has something to do with yahoo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mkorcuska/2297271568/

So how am I getting this post out? I’ve used remote desktop to connect to a machine in San Francisco. I could also have used VPN (although my current VPN setup doesn’t send general internet traffice through VPN so it didn’t actually work in this case), which is an obvious loophole in the system. Fallows article talks about the system being effective despite this. Getting VPN is inconvenient and expensive for your average Chinese citizen and, so, it is just easier to rely on content that is inside China instead of going outside.

So, my apologies if I decide it isn’t worth doing another post until I get to Spain.

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