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China Just Blocked Thousands of Websites (greatfire.org)
173 points by wyclif on Nov 18, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 133 comments



Speaking entirely divorced from my opinion on China politically (as someone with strong US and TW ties, FWIW), I think the Great Firewall has been a brilliant economic move in retrospect. While it may have been an accidental side-effect, blocking so many foreign sites has enabled a flourishing of domestic internet companies of the likes that nobody but the US has seen unless I'm mistaken.

And for a "middle class" of blocked sites, while not technically blocked, the packet delay is so great most people (except a dedicated few) will just shrug and figure that cross-continent internet connections must be too slow to be practical. Accessible, but only if you're willing to wait a minute. A brilliant political play, because it's hard to pin a charge oppression on anyone, since the information is technically there, but so slow nobody will access it.


The side-effect was definitely not accidental. China has blocked the major company in every internet industry (social networks, search engines, video streaming, etc.), and as a result domestic products are booming. Now these domestic products are starting to expand internationally with the revenue they get from the artificial Chinese market.

Korea did something something similar with its Chaebols' (Hyundai, Samsung, or other large Korean companies in countless industries) in the 80s. It had protectionist policies that let the Korean companies charge outrageous prices domestically, and used that revenue to become very competitive internationally. And it worked.


Google never got much market share before it was more seriously blocked. ICQ too failed compared to QQ despite not being blocked. I think the bigger reason is foreign companies just don't provide what Chinese people want - ie Chinese language and millions of flashing banner ads.


I think your theory might be chicken-and-egg. Without access to the website easily, companies don't have a real reason to invest in Chinese language versions of their service.


Both Google and ICQ had almost two decades before they were blocked.


Actually, all the major economic powers got there by means of protectionism. Economic liberalism is nice when you're already at the top.


Is that true? I got the impression the US and UK mostly became major economic powers by being ahead on tech in their day and China mostly by undercutting everyone on price through low wages and low environmental protection. OK China is protectionist but iPhones are made there because it costs less, not because of restrictions on importing phones to China. Dunno if you've got a source? I'll give you protectionism seems to have worked for S Korea though I'm not sure I'd call it a major economic power. Also what I'd think of as the most similar competitor in the area, Taiwan, has a higher gdp/captita without all the Chaebol protecting stuff.


It is very hard to generalize US economic history, but in general before the civil war the Southern states were in favor of free trade and the Northern states were protectionist. The North won. Like many countries that have developed recently, the US depended on lots of foreign investment for canals and then railroads.

I am not sure if the US had, on average, higher tariffs while it was developing than other countries. The US really became passionate politically about free trade after the great depression. Many economists felt that the depression was made much worse by protectionism that undermined world trade.


>Is that true? I got the impression the US and UK mostly became major economic powers by being ahead on tech in their day

The US did that after several centuries of economony building with huge protectionism and slavery. And remained there by using their army to ensure cheap resources, favorable contracts, lackeys in place in subservient countries, etc. The environment to create the "advanced tech" comes from that.

Similarly the UK and France become major economic powers by enslaving half the globe with their military. Their great "tech" and such come after the colonies, not before.


> Similarly the UK and France become major economic powers by enslaving half the globe with their military. Their great "tech" and such come after the colonies, not before.

It was technological advantages that enabled them to enslave half the globe with their military.


>It was technological advantages that enabled them to enslave half the globe with their military.

Nothing to write home about, tech wise.


No, the European colonial powers had enormous technological advantages over the societies they subjugated. Just because both colonizer and colonized seem primitive to us doesn't mean that there wasn't an enormous gap between them.


The US became an economic power in large part because of slavery [1]. And I don't mean to say that in a snarky or condescending manner. The US is hardly the only country to give itself advantages. As you say, China's taking advantage of the environment. Protectionism is extremely active (subsidies and import tariffs). Wages are kept low.

Comfort and suffering seem to go hand in hand. Subsidized rice creates a surplus, which floods the market, which [seemingly paradoxically, but not really] results in famine in Haiti.

[1] - http://www.salon.com/2014/09/07/we_still_lie_about_slavery_h...


I don't think slavery really explains much. The Southern States' economy was dwarfed by the North. Did slavery benefit the US economy? Of course.

I would argue the US' protection from the ravages of WW1 and WW2 led to its economic power. Before WW1 the US wasn't a major player on the international stage.


Slavery is not actually very economically efficient. This is one of the main reasons the north had a much better developed economy. The problem is it’s limited to steady state production but you miss out on the increases in efficiency that drives compound economic growth.

EX: The first cotton gin was patented in 1793 which is 68 years before the American civil war. But, with cheap labor there is little pressure to improve it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cotton_gin Sadly, it ended up increasing slavery in the south by making it more profitable, where a modern farm uses far less labor the south simply doubled down on cheap labor.

PS: There is actually a fair amount of evidence that Slavery significantly reduced US economic growth over time. Paid workers keep more of their output which is a non-issue from an overall economic standpoint, but they need far less supervision which is a large boon. There also more mobile and easier to fire and higher as needs change.


The recorded fact was that the new land was useless without the labor to support it. Herman Merivale spoke at length about the economic realities of slavery America: "No economical cause can be assigned on which we may rely for the extinction of slavery."

So ya, maybe by the mid-1800, additional forces were established. But the only reason that was a possibility was because, from the 1500s onward, people wanted to (and did) exploited the fertile soil. It's like taking a snapshot of 1979 and saying Michael Corleone was a legitimate business man.

Also, there was other crappy stuff going on beyond slavery (but slavery-like). The building of the transcontinental railroad. Taxes on non-US citizens (with restrictions on what races could become US-citizens).


There where a small number of people that profited greatly from slavery. However, economic growth is more than just what happens to rich people. As much hoopla as surrounded slavery in the US they always maintained a small portion of the total population and per capita generated less goods and services than the average american.


I can believe you on the slavery thing but that's not really protectionism. Without being moralistic about anything I'm still skeptical that protectionism, as in restricting imports, works particularly well for a country as a whole.


Well, let's do the standard mathematical thing and take the extreme case. Imagine that some country sucks so much that all its industries are less efficient than those in other countries. Since capital is free to move between countries nowadays, Ricardian comparative advantage doesn't apply, and the end result is that no one ever invests in the country's industries, so it just stays poor forever. You might try to use government investment to prop up domestic industries, but the government doesn't have too much money because the country is poor to begin with.

It seems like protectionism would help in this case, by creating a market that can only be satisfied by domestic industries. And since there's a spectrum from this case to more realistic cases, there's also a spectrum of usefulness for protectionism. Does that make sense?


> Since capital is free to move between countries nowadays, Ricardian comparative advantage doesn't apply

Ricardian comparative advantage always applies when ignoring transaction costs; reducing transaction costs for any given set of transactions (e.g., by eliminating formal restrictions on capital movement) increases (rather than reduces) the likelihood that Ricardian comparative advantage applies.

(If you want an extreme case in which Ricardian comparative advantage to fails to apply, you need to assume extreme transaction costs -- one of the canonical hypothetical examples where this is argued to the case is an interstellar civilization without FTL travel.)


I don't see how that's true. Let's run through the standard example from Wikipedia.

1) England can produce a unit of cloth for 100 units of labor, and a unit of wine for 120 units of labor. Portugal can produce a unit of cloth for 90 units of labor, and a unit of wine for 80 units of labor. Portugal has absolute advantage in both goods, but England has a comparative advantage in cloth. By the standard Ricardian argument, we get lots of trade and happiness.

2) Now let's change the situation slightly. Replace all occurrences of "units of labor" with "units of capital", and assume that capital can move freely between countries. We've lost the key component of comparative advantage, the idea that producing a good forces you to "forgo" producing some other good. Everyone just produces everything in Portugal, and England dies. Whoops!

3) Now allow England to set up protectionism, so that all wine consumed in England must be locally produced. This way it can survive. Not very nicely, but between (2) and (3) I'd choose (3) every time.

Am I missing something?


You are missing that for capital in England to move to Portugal, something has to move the other way.

If you look at actual neoliberal trade, a lot of production of goods (and even services, to the extent that they can be provided remotely) moves to the peripheries, but the core's comparative advantage becomes in renting out surplus capital (which produces even more surplus capital to rent out). That is, the developed world in actual neoliberal trade with free capital movement are the countries that are like England in your example.


> You are missing that for capital in England to move to Portugal, something has to move the other way.

Why? Because nature abhors a vacuum? :-)

As far as I can tell, production doesn't really move to the poorest countries like the one in my example. It seems that it moves to countries that have an absolute (not just comparative) advantage in manufacturing costs.


> Why? Because nature abhors a vacuum?

Well, because "England" and "Portugal", on the level that Ricardian comparative advantage really works, aren't really countries, but sets of people (and, really, the comparative advantage really exists on the individual level, its existence between sets of people is simply an aggregate of its individual existence.)

Absent an external actor using force to compel an involuntary transfer, productive capital moving from person E to person P requires some item(s) of value moving to E such that the value to E justifies surrendering the capital.


I suppose the real thorny bit is what happens after that. You've used protectionism to raise a number of national industries that have incubated in a shielded market. At some point, they need to be exposed to the world.

I'd imagine, if they provide something unique, they can succeed. However, if it's (for example) a commodity industry, they're unlikely to have faced the same pressure to become efficient that their new competitors have.

Although, on the flip side, that timeline sounds excellent for growing a monopoly-busting competitor. (E.g. what my understanding is that the French do from time-to-time)


Ricardian comparative advantage always applies’s simply because domestic land/workers are going to be doing something. The economy might end up being based around running internet scam's or gold farming in MMO’s, but compared to substance farming that's still a step up.


Protectionism works like this. People in business worried that they're not making enough dough convinces fellow citizens that the way for the nation to prosper is by wasting additional money to produce those goods and services on one side of a line instead of on another. These local businessmen makes extra cash, tout their high-visibility success. Individuals and families who pay for this and spend less on other things (harming every other sector of the economy) are conveniently ignored.



Yes, this is true, going back all the way through history.


"Bad Samaritans" by Ha-Joon Chang, a South Korean economist now at Cambridge University, is a good light read fleshing out these ideas.


A Chinese insider here.

Most China Internet companies are more successful not because their foreign competitors are blocked, but they are more agile to move and adapt products/services to local market.

There are lots of examples. Alibaba beat eBay(never blocked) badly. JD is much popular than Amazon.com China which is continuously operating in China for long time. Tencent becomes an Internet empire via QQ, an instant messaging service which AOL, Yahoo, Microsoft all can not find reasonable monetization ways.

Maybe the best counter-example is Baidu with Google nearly blocked fully. But before that, after several years operating, Google' market share is below 30%.


Note the wording here: agile, adapt. So you develop a copy of a "western" product/service, then block the original from the west and "market locally". Great, genius. To me this is the totalitarian equivalent of import tax.


When the companies in question are google, facebook, twitter, etc., it's a lot more difficult to make the normal "utility calculus" arguments that are the way most economists understand the cost of protectionism to domestic consumers.

When you look at the cost per vehicle paid by consumers in scenario A vs scenario B, there's a clear argument to be made. With services, it's more speculative. Is the average haircut in China better or worse than Malaysia's? With web services, it's near impossible to measure consumption or consumer surplus. The underlying economics driving normal goods and services industries (economies of scale, price competitions, marginal costs of production) aren't there. That makes the economics we can measure in goods industries and theorize in services industries very shaky.

Economists generally do have a sense that choice is good and protectionism is bad, but it's hard to formalize or measure when the products are newspapers, search engines, social networks and dating apps.


How can you be so sure it was not accidental?

Seems to me, the need to be in control is enough motivation for these acts... without ever thinking that someone will have to build a Chinese amazon


You're making a bad assumption - that because protectionism resulted in a flourishing Internet economy, that it wouldn't have happened without protectionism. Imagine what kind of Internet economy we'd have in China without this dumb firewall and protectionist policies in place - Baidu might actually be a global rival to Google instead of the piece of crap it is :) Global consumers might be happily buying from Taobao instead of the piece of crap that Amazon is :)


Yes. They're not blocking because of protectionism. It's because they can't censor the content to meet the local rules. China is not alone in this but they are at the thick end of the censorship wedge.


I completely agree with you. On a related note: The Great Firewall is rather easy to get around, but that's the point. That tiny inconvenience sates the nonconformists while making the vast majority of people simply give up.[1] The same goes for jailbreaking one's phone or switching operating systems. Heck, many people can't even be bothered to check "organ donor" on their drivers license.

1. http://lesswrong.com/lw/f1/beware_trivial_inconveniences/


It's easy to get around, but it's still a huge drag. eg, yeah I can dialup my vpn and get Facebook, but then there's the endless times the vpn doesn't conevt, the connection is slow, when you're on mobile and want to access something blocked. Today I spent twenty minutes sending a QQ contact an address I had in gmail. I have about as many "no VPN frustration" days as Beijing has blue sky days :)

Before anyone asks, I live in Fujian and I use a government licensed VPN.


The great firewall is not "rather easy" to get around. It can be a giant pain in the ass. Source: I live in Beijing


Easy for hacker news, should be the clarification.

But there's no point in using facebook if all your friends aren't on facebook.

I close websites if I hit a paywall. Would I really go through the effort to hit a VPN? ....nah.


Buying VPN services from companies isn't extremely reliable because once they're found out, they're blocked, and they also just may not have enough bandwidth. I just run my own virtual server in Japan or Hong Kong. Since I'm the only one using it, they aren't going to care.


When I was in Hangzhou, it was quite easy. I guess our anecdotes cancel each other out?


It has become substantially more difficult over the last year or so, in my experience, with periodic blockages and slowdowns.


I am in Shanghai and I find it pretty difficult...

Without paying (a VPN), of course...


I think you guys are arguing about the definition of "difficult." $20 and 10 minutes is harder than free and instant, but...


you're right. VPN is a good solution in this case


Although I was able to get around the Great Firewall while living in Shenzhen and Beijing, connection speed/quality was bad enough that more than tripling my rent to live in HK was easily worth it for Internet alone.

Quality of service matters, not just existence of service. There's a reason why lots of engineering effort goes into reducing latency. When the user is in China and the website is hosted outside, the Great Firewall negates all that effort.


I'm pretty sure the language barrier and a massive internal market do most of the heavy lifting here. Look at Yandex.

The Great Firewall is a wash at best. It protects local companies from international competition but it's part of a policy that makes foreigners trust Chinese products much less and will hurt their adoption.


I don't think a brilliant move, even economically, can be called in this case. When the upper class/inner circle saw the money in this field, it's the first thing they were willing to do. If this kind of action can be called that way. We can easily find mountain-high pile of cases that we can call brilliant in the ruling party's history. Yes, economically grabbing people ruled by it. Take any amount when it wants to.


While we may pay lip service to the web as "open" and "international", it's pretty western and particularly US dominated. From basic infrastructure like core domain names, to standards bodies like the W3C and IEEE, to the big companies like Google, Facebook, Ebay, PayPal, Anazon, Apple and co.

Even sites like Wikipedia, supposedly available to anyone to edit, are pretty much dominated by specific points of view and ideas (even if sometimes those who held those like to think that those ideas are or should be universal and/or neutral).

Neither economically, nor culturally does it make sense for a nation the size of China (or even for EU, but I digres) to participate in such a web. They are not some pushover country that was created a century ago. They have their own, millenia old, civilization. It's not like they are isolated by doing the firewall thing either. They get all the good (and the crap) we get in large does anyway, from the Kardasians to Jackson Pollock.

Think experiment: if the internet was mostly run and dominated by USSR, including a "neutral" Commipedia full of USSR points of view and material, would the US adopt it? Or would they build their own counterpart?


"I think the Great Firewall has been a brilliant economic move in retrospect. "

In the short term yes, but as China is "opened up" more to the western world, this separation and state sponsorship will hurt international growth for domestic Chinese companies.

Many in the "middle" ground will operate as they always did, but if you're a big Chinese tech company looking to expand around the world- this will hurt potential partnerships and foreign investment.


> blocking so many foreign sites has enabled a flourishing of domestic internet companies of the likes that nobody but the US has seen

I'm not sure I follow. It's not like there's a huge demand to do business with local Chinese nationals. There's opportunity, sure, there's always opportunity, but don't confuse that with demand. Unfortunately, very few businesses outside of China could even compete with domestic companies anyways. They're literally working for pennies on the dollar. That's also ignoring the cultural and language barriers, not to mention governmental red-tape you would have to go through.

It would be like me trying to set up an customer service business here in Maine and trying to sell my services to a lower-middle sized company in India. I wouldn't be able to compete with local Indian companies since their overhead and costs are significantly less than mine. Obviously there are exceptions depending on the industry, but they are just that, exceptions.


Facebook wouldn't incur any additional costs operating in China except for the cost of additional server infrastructure, which would be the same for a Chinese company. Their engineering costs are sunk costs. They wouldn't be competing against Chinese engineers for pennies on the dollar (if you could even find Chinese engineers of the same skill set).


All biz are not labour intensive, in India GMail, Facebook and Twitter rule, in China the local counterparts.


Most definitely not an accident. China throttles every successful foreign internet startup. They prefer the economic benefit confers to Chinese, and political control remains in China - for obvious reasons.


Of course there are many factors in North Korea's status as a failed state, but if protectionism is such the brilliant move, then why isn't North Korea more successful.


I wonder if someone might challenge China on this at the WTO. It could perhaps be seen as a backhanded tariff. As you say it's acted like one for their domestic internet businesses.


I think that, from the economic perspective, it's just a form of protectionism. You help local producers at the expense of consumers. Few benefit at the expense of many.


While I'm quite sure it's true, but I'm also sure it's a side effect.


"We have acknowledged all along that our method of unblocking websites using “collateral freedom” hinges on the gamble that the Chinese authorities will not block access to global CDNs because they understand the value of China being integrated with the global internet."

If they "understood the value" of that, these shenanigans wouldn't have been necessary in the first place.


If you think about it from a purely practical standpoint, it would make sense for all countries to block the any CDN that isn't on their soil. Local companies make more money hosting websites, less traffic on the pipes coming into the country, and better control over what is censored.


...and higher prices for consumers in those countries.


Sending money overseas only benefits the single buyer in the short term. Keeping it within the country increases the wealth of that society leading to better services for all citizens.


Here's a counter example:

A island nation with highly accessible fisheries populated by 100 people in the middle of the ocean could spend their labor on building a CDN or fishing.

If they use other's CDNs, the money they sent would be used by foreigners to buy their fish, which could be produced very cheaply. Building their CDN means forgoing their fishing opportunity. Building a CDN means they can now sell their CDN services cheaper than it would have cost them to run a website to sell their fish, but the benefit is marginal compared to the income they would have received by focusing their labor in an industry where they have comparative advantage.

They must choose only one because they have limited labor.

...Land, labor, capital and technology is wealth, and money only represent a claim on that wealth.


I'm not sure if this really addresses your argument, but China certainly doesn't have a limited labor supply... Quite the opposite


The comment being replied to specifies that blocking and building would be a beneficial activity for all countries to participate in.


Taking your argument to its extreme, entity should trade with any other entity.

Trade walls hurt everyone in the long term.


I'm currently in China. VPNs are very common and popular here. Many work very poorly unfortunately (Private Internet Access included). Astrill appears to be the most popular and best performing. A few high-end hotels that I've stayed at route all traffic through a VPN to cater to their Western audience.

Many, many people with little technical ability use a VPN, especially in businesses dealing with the West.


There are better VPNs for China: http://www.greycoder.com/openvpn-china/


The vast, vast majority, though, of the Chinese internet population do not use VPNs, nor will they when most of what they want/need is available on domestic sites. The slice of the population that deals with the West is tiny, and comparatively unlikely to cause problems. The chilling effect that just needing a VPN has on exploration of accurate foreign information about China and what's happening in the country is substantial and intended.


China does a good job in what it intends to do.

Most non-Chinese IP websites are not blocked but traffic gets slowed down by factor 40. I have an offshore webserver. A ping suggests a 50% packet loss.

Often you can access foreign websites. At least sometimes. Some days even gmail does work. Everything works sometimes or a little bit and or is unbelievable slow.

What I never understood with my self build SSH proxy VPN: China seems to be able to sniff on it. Facebook and Google were most of the time not working, even with the proxy. Maybe the 50% packet loss makes their websites non functional.

I just bought Astill VPN and for now I must say they are doing a tremendous job.


> A ping suggests a 50% packet loss.

This likely caused by the limited peering arrangements of your host. I rent ~10 virtual private servers outside China, and ping times vary between 90ms ('best' provider) to 500ms ('worst' provider). Packet loss varies over time, but has never been an issue with > half of the providers.

> What I never understood with my self build SSH proxy VPN: China seems to be able to sniff on it.

Were you using an HTTP proxy (e.g. forwarding a local port to squid running on your VPS) or a SOCKS proxy (just using the SSH command to act as a socks proxy)? If the latter, then your DNS queries would still be resolved locally (probably by your ISP's DNS server and, even if using an external DNS server, subject to MITM).


No. I use DNS via my SSH proxy

##Preference Name Status Type Value

network.proxy.socks_remote_dns user set boolean true


Hmm... perhaps malware on the client? I can't imagine your SSH connection is being MITM'd.


> What I never understood with my self build SSH proxy VPN: China seems to be able to sniff on it.

There's two possibilities that I can see; you were letting your DNS requests leak and they were being poisoned, or they were doing a direct MITM hijack of your SSH session. Neither is particularly comforting, but it's fairly easy to work out which if either is going on.


How do I figure this out?

I resolve my DNS through my proxy.

##Preference Name Status Type Value network.proxy.socks_remote_dns user set boolean true


The SSH one is probably easiest to detect. When you first connect to a session the public key fingerprint of the server is saved in your ~/.ssh/known_hosts file. If you can verify this out of band somehow actually is the correct fingerprint (call a friend and ask them to connect and get it), then chances are it's not being tampered with. Essentially it would have had to have happened the first time you connected to the server, and every single time afterwards else OpenSSH makes it very, very clear you've been hijacked.

    @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
    @ WARNING: REMOTE HOST IDENTIFICATION HAS CHANGED!  @
    @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
     
    IT IS POSSIBLE THAT SOMEONE IS DOING SOMETHING NASTY!
Yeah. So if you don't remember seeing that and the fingerprint is correct, probably nobody has been tampering with the connection. Which would imply that they've either cracked the cipher and are tampering with it anyway (unlikely as hell), that your DNS requests are somehow leaking (somewhat likely) or maybe it's some sort of nocebo effect. Hard to say for certain, wireshark might be the place to go in order to find out some more about your outgoing DNS requests though.


If a person with Wireshark can figure out what you are doing, so can a nation-scale signature detection system.

Things like custom protocol handshakes will give the underlying application away. It doesn't matter if the traffic itself is encrypted.


I am from China and SSH tunnelling works perfect for me.


Where's your server? I also have issues tunneling to a UK based server


My experience is that routes to UK and Europe (at least to budget VPS providers) have high latency and often have low throughput. Try servers in Singapore, Tokyo or the USA. Even these vary in performance, depending on the peering arrangements in place. Try to find an overseas host with direct peering with PCCW or China Unicom.


Playing with the ports may help. Try 443 instead of 22


There are a number of ways to help people in China gain access to the open Internet. One easy way to help is to setup an obfsproxy bridge to alleviate the shortage.[1] The quickest and easiest way is to setup your free Amazon EC2 account with the Instructions at the Tor Cloud Project page[2]. It took me just a couple of minutes to install my free EC2 account. Another option is to donate money to pay for the bandwidth that Tor relay and exit nodes require.[3]

NOTE: A bridge is not the same as an exit node. Only exit nodes could possibly attract attention from authorities. If you are just running a bridge, you are only helping people circumvent government firewalls to join the Tor network. The default EC2 Tor Cloud images only run as a bridge.

[1] http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2013/04/tor-ca...

[2] https://cloud.torproject.org/

[3] https://blog.torproject.org/blog/support-tor-network-donate-...


Inevitable. As people start using other services to get around the wall, those services will be blocked no matter how popular they are. Given what we've seen of Xi so far, I guess Chinese internet will probably be mostly cutoff from the rest of the world by the end of his term.


Yes. But I think it could be way sooner than most of Chinese can be aware of. Consensus among average people in China seems in favor of Xi now. Someone is just picking up the organization's old-fashion tricks and copying them and hoping all of them work as expected since those are all that they know. When the energy begins to loose, everything could turn up-side-down shortly. It has not started yet. Everybody needs a huge stable market now. Perhaps leader can get what he wants in the end.


Too me it'll be the end of the world...


When I was living in Beijing some month ago the bad Internet really upset me. Almost every international connection was quite slow. A lot of pages took minutes to load because so many sites use Google hosted fonts, js libraries or API. These requests took about a minute to timeout and finally the browser could start to render the page (e.g using a default font). Most vpns are like described often slow, so also no solution. I then wrote a chrome plugin to filter all requests to Google hosted libraries and rerouted them to a Chinese service which mirrors Google hosted libraries. This really improved my surfing experience.


I'm really surprised that so many people are still just talking about it in an economic prospective. I'm not talking about Human Rights or Freedom because the government don't event accept them. I just want to surf the Internet.

Currently it works well because we get more and more tools to deal with GFW, but do you know how frustrating it is in the early days of the Internet in China that you spent nearly half of your life just to solve "networking issues"?

Put yourself in others' shoes for a moment please.


I've often thought one could make an economic argument against filtering. But for that to work, those in charge need to care about the losses. I think of it like those Mastercard ads https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GofscoXnpDw

"Losses due to filtering: X yuan. The illusion of control: Priceless. Some sites we like, for everything else there's the GFW."


You could also make an economic argument for filtering: the infant industry argument.

Protection from the west by the great firewall has made Chinese services flourish.

Compare this to say, Japan, where the native social network Mixi has been practically destroyed by foreign competitors.


> Compare this to say, Japan, where the native social network Mixi has been practically destroyed by foreign competitors.

Or, maybe it was that Mixi had been lagging behind for ages and deservingly died off. You might also want to add that Line [1], a domestic company (well, subsidiary of a South Korean company, but still...), is now pretty much dominating the market.

[1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Line_(application)


In fact it's so good that it's now making inroads in Europe and North America. If you play internet games many of the guilds require members to use LINE. I picked it up to chat with friends in Japan and love it, I'm now trying to get my friends to switch over.


> Or, maybe it was that Mixi had been lagging behind for ages and deservingly died off.

Lagging behind who? ...foreign competitors. I'm not saying Mixi was great, but if it didn't have to deal with facebook/twitter/instagram/naver LINE then it would have had a much greater chance of remaining relevant.


Many sites and services are certainly flourishing here. But I think many would any way because they are in Chinese (understandable) and local (faster, even without the GFW). And some are just better, WeChat and Taobao for example.


> But I think many would any way because they are in Chinese

Any serious service is localised in Chinese.

> and local (faster, even without the GFW)

Any serious service would use a Chinese CDN or host servers inside China.

> And some are just better, WeChat and Taobao for example.

Would WeChat and Taobao have reached critical momentum if they were subjected to the full force of competition in their early phases? It's impossible to know of course, but it's something to consider.


tl;dr Greatfire.org hosted content mirrors on edgecastcdn.net , China bans *.edgecastcdn.net altogether.


How helpful of them. Maybe they can throw a mirror up on Akamai and CloudFlare next.


They already did. See their wiki https://github.com/greatfire/wiki

They are hosting mirrors on Akamai, Azure, Cloudfront.

They previously hosted on Amazon S3 and Cloudflare, they were blocked in China already


Github will be blocked sooner or later? God bless it!


oh god, Greatfire.org, stop trying to make every cdn service being blocked!


China is trying to make every CDN blocked, not Greatfire.org. Stop blaming the victims.


I'm sorry for using the word, but they PEE everywhere, then they blame who's trying to clean up and the way of cleaning. Yes, the way of cleaning is absolutely blamable, since the government doesn't own the place where they pee and yet some Chinese do love the pee. But I think whoever is peeing is more to blame. If you could read Chinese, you can see large amounts of content they are providing are hateful, violent and disturbing which against the ToS of many hosting providers (not all of the content are bad tbf, there is good information as well, additionally if you couldn't read Chinese, you can visit Freeweibo, there are lots of pics that express my view).

Well, greatfire.org sure don't think they were peeing anyway, on the contrary, "It's an honor", under the name of freedom of speech, the collateral damage is much more like a weapon against the government, if a website cleans those contents up on its own, the website will be tagged as "the enemy of freedom of speech", "self-censorship" as they call it. The mess keeps going on. I don't know who is winning here. What I do know is users are the losers.


China should block itself from the internet instead. I am running several servers and getting the most useless/annoying bot/malware traffic from China. Even that I had to block everything that comes from them.


You mean we should filter our connection based on what IP it is coming from. Yeah, that's a good idea...


I legitimately want to know why the "Great Firewall" doesn't block spamming botnets that post to wp-comment.php hundreds of times per hour.


I think that the firewall is predominantly one way. Restricting access to external information rather than prevention of hackers going out.

But, I agree. I'd also like to see them stop. I now use a geo-IP filter and whitelist the few countries that actually don't appear to spam that much. Needless to say, China is not on that list.

Out of interest Brazil, Ukraine and Russia are also banned for this reason. Does anyone else have loads of comment spam originating from Brazil?


I was about to ask, "Anyone know the significance of the part-way filled red-links?"

Did an inspect element/hover over the links and it shows the percentage that the site is blocked, which seems to be the same as the proportion of the link background that is red. Pretty neat use of styling.


My former room mates were from China and I was really surprised to learn that they supported the Great Firewall. They didn't seem to have any issues with it and even thought it was for the greater good.


Foreign students from China know they'll have a very good chance at becoming one the oligarchs ruling the country, and as such likely think any tool as keeping the people subservient is a good thing.

I find it unlikely that Chinese rulers would want to send abroad anyone but its loyal opposers of democracy.


Are you seriously suggesting that Chinese students are all vetted by the government to make sure they are Pro-Communist and Anti-Democratic? AND they are all from the "ruling class".

wow. I don't even...


Chinese students who study abroad are "oriented" in official programs before they go abroad. Some may be more influenced by those orientations than others, but that's a much more comprehensive program in China than anything like that elsewhere. When I left the United States to study abroad, I had no government-sponsored program to get me ready for that experience at all.


I have no idea where you got that impression, but based on my personal experience as an International student from China, most of the Chinese undergrad students get financial aids from relatives and post-graduate degree students live on university funding. It is extremely rare to have students who are "sent" by the Chinese government and few people actually have strong preference of returning to China after they complete their study over getting a job abroad.


No, they are not. They are just like every other international student. Their parents want a better life for them, so they take advantage of study visas, this is the same the world over. The chinese government isn't involved (beyond getting a passport). In fact it is the opposite of what you say:

If you are the son/daughter of a semi-high ranking CCP member the government will heavily vet you (assets, study program, where you intend to go). This is because of the "naked official" problem where corrupt members send their child out and then transfer illegitimate assets/cash out to the foreign country.

But your average chinese exchange student just has middle class parents who have just sunk their life savings into securing a better future for their child... that's it.


I think the easiest way to undermine China right now is to trick them into further limiting it's own connectivity with the global internet by banking on their zeal for censorship and their itchy trigger finger.

Not that I'm advocating this as a strategy, it's more of a warning. China has enemies, and those enemies can do a lot of damage feeding the fire that drives it's governments oppressive policies. And they can do it practically for free.


I think websites should be re-developed as torrents


I think Freenet is the closest thing to a distributed, encrypted network like the one you speak of.

https://freenetproject.org/whatis.html


Then you should

a) start re-developing, or

b) open up your wallet and pay someone else to do it, while

c) accepting greatly decreased web reliability and bandwidth and

d) preparing for enormous legal and polictical shenanigans of upsetting the status quo of traffic monitoring and the shape of telecommunications bandwidth.


Does anyone know if Cache Databases are blocked? I made a chrome extension called WebCache that views the cached version of a webpage which would be helpful if Google Cache, Wayback Machine, or Coral CDN isn't blocked. Here is the source: https://github.com/Dbz/WebCache


The first two are definitely blocked (without the Greatfire mirrors). I'm not sure about Coral CDN.


Apparently Greatfire.org think this caused "significant economic loss as many businesses will be impacted".

I think this only cause problems for edgecast customers, and China doesn't give the slightest fuck.

And for those people who does want to see those "collateral freedom" mirrored content, they already have their own private circumventing methods.


Edgecast customers include some very popular websites, which are certainly used by consumers and businesses in China. So it's definitely a problem for China. Now, whether the Chinese government gives a fuck is indeed another matter. I'm sure they can browse whatever they want.


After living in China for a few years, I understood something: the only thing chinese government cares about is its longevity. The whole system is designed to keep the party in the control seat. Economic growth was a way, now that's is slowing down, the party is finding other ways, but it would be a mistake to think chinese economy is more important than power for the party.


I don't think anyone is desperate enough to rely on VPN to access the websites of technology giants already blocked or soon to be blocked by China, as greatfire.org is also mirrored Akamai and CloudFlare. What will more likely happen is that those large technology companies will just realize not to invest too much money into countries hostile towards them, like China.


Personally I have to thank the great firewall for blocking Facebook and Twitter so that I would not waste my time on these nonsenses. For serious problems I do not mind find a way to access google, but I would not do it to try to access Facebook especially when none of my friends are there.


There are other methods like discipline, that don't obliterate your personal freedoms.


May sound opportunistic but there are some great opportunities here to create domestic companies that mimic those companies that have been blocked.


Yes, and this article itself has been blocked too.


It worries me that this thread could get our beloved Hacker News blocked. I cross my fingers, as you might see, I'm from inside the w@ll.


Is there any way I can buy a Chinese VPS to see the impacts of the blocks myself?


There's a bunch of providers listed on https://www.exoticvps.com/ .


Try vpngate:http://www.vpngate.net , Hope you join vpngate network too :)


Actully, it isn't. Better not to tempt fate.


I can't visit the link. (https://zh.greatfire.org/blog/2014/nov/china-just-blocked-th...) And I'm in mainland China. What can I suppose?




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