Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Blogging Goes Live - Great Firewall of China

Well here we have it. After spending years following Wang Jian Shou's blog website which covers information in English of this man's life (and his family) in Shanghai, I have been inspired to begin my own blogging.

Just as Jian Shuo has done, I intend to try and update with a blog entry daily with the vision to overtime, keep an historical record of our life (currently in Singapore) and if possible offer information and assistance based on our experiences and day to day activities. I intend to offer up facts for discussion whilst remaining completely impartial, allowing commenters to discuss the issues and topics.

What better way to start than to bring up the issues I've experienced with the "Great Firewall of China". The banning of websites and IP addresses on the China mainland seems at times to be completely ad-hoc. I am led to believe that often the only way to resolve these blocks are to change Hosts (which is not always that convenient).

An example of what I have been facing relates to domain names bought from 'Go Daddy' and registered. Specifically relating to both this site (Blogger.com) as well as Google Pages, the IPs assigned to my domains are blocked on the China mainland.

If a user on the China mainland types in the 'raw' URLs of my sites, they seem to be completely accessible. However, if the user tries to access the domains as purchased, the IP addresses are blocked (I have been told this is because I must be 'sharing' IPs with other domains who have validly been blocked).

The following are the sites in question:

http://www.jaimezheng.com/ - not accessible on the China mainland, but the exact same content is accessible using the google pages link - http://www.jaimezheng.com-a.googlepages.com/

http://www.aussiepete.com/ (this blogger site) is not accessible, but the same content on Blogger is - http://jaimezheng.blogspot.com/

After first experiencing this issue with
http://www.jaimezheng.com/, I contacted the support at Google Pages and also Go Daddy. I was told by Go Daddy that the problem resided with Google Pages. Google Pages advised that they do not know why their IPs on domains are blocked by GFW, and that there was nothing that they could do to resolve the matter. Although I need to accept this statement (as somewhat of a layman), I have seen other companies that were previously blocked (by IP or web address) lobby the Chinese government through the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have their websites unblocked - eg most of the Wikipedia English content.

Why does the GFW of China concern me so much?

Because my wife is from Shanghai, and our baby was born in Singapore where we now reside, the internet has become the preferred method of sharing our lives with our immediate and extended families in China. Also, the population on the mainland represents around 1/6 of the world's population - without accessibility, I sort of feel like the world-wide web has become like a '5/6 of a world-wide web' for us.

Anyway, I'd like to share a very powerful gadget that I've picked up along the way. Previously, everytime we wanted to check the validity of a URLs accessibility in China, we had to share the link with family or friends and get them to check it for us. Now, we can do the same thing by accessing servers located on the mainland:


http://www.websitepulse.com/help/testtools.china-test.html



Aside: The Golden Shield Project (a.k.a. Great Firewall of China) is owned by the Government of China (MPS) and started in 1998. The system blocks content by preventing IP addresses from being routed through and consists of standard firewall and proxy servers at the Internet gateways of China's ISPs.

Look to any comments / suggestions or any other similar experiences in the comments.

Here's looking forward to many more blog entries in the future!!!

4 comments:

René said...

That WebSitePulse link is very good! I was always wondering why some Chinese have problems accessing the pages that I send them, although I knew about wikipedia being censored. But simple stuff like pictures from flickr were also banned sometimes, but not always

AussiePete said...

Hi René - thanks for the comment,

Yeh - like I wrote, the blocks often seem to be random and ad-hoc. I've heard many complaints that 'Youtube' is often blocked and the unblocked again. Anyway, as China continues to further 'open up' let's hope that the level of censorship is lifted somewhat... perhaps censorship will be another topic for me to post about in the near future (as it relates to Singapore and the Media Development Authority (MDA) - this has been an ongoing dicsussion and even source of frustration for many foreigners living in Singapore. :p

Purple~MushRooM said...

Your Webpulse is also being blocked...

Rene said...

Once again, websitepulse was helpful.....
now I know that facebook is indeed not accessible (at the moment) in China