Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Working behind the great firewall of China

Well, after about 24 hours of travel time we’ve arrived safety in Shanghai, China, for the Learning 2.0 conference!


Our local time is exactly 12 hours opposite US Eastern Time– a clear sign we’ve literally come halfway around the planet. I spoke with my parents over Skype this evening (in China) and morning (for them) and was amazed how CRYSTAL clear the connection was– with zero latency/delay. I have about six euros in my Skype account (I bought the credits over a year ago and for some reason bought in euros instead of dollars) and our fifteen minute conversation looks to have cost me about twenty cents (U.S.) Now that’s an affordable international call!

Being online and working online from behind “the great firewall of China” has already proven interesting, but not an insurmountable challenge. Things I could NOT do online without using a proxy service include:

I was able to ftp into my webserver to upload a podcast as well as upload images to Flickr both with Skitch and the Flickr uploader. In order to do the things noted above, however, from my hotel Internet connection, I had to use For sites (like and that require a login, I had to actually buy a 3 month membership in for $20. Thank goodness this service is available. (Addition: The Access Flickr plug-in for FireFox (free) does allow full Flickr access without using a proxy server. Thanks to Hamed Saber in Iran!)

Proxify new user signup - Credit Card

Proxify - Subscribers only

These are “NOT so subtle” reminders that for the first time in my life, I’m in a communist country. China is making some changes, especially in preparation for the upcoming Olympics in Beijing, but the information access permitted to citizens and tourists is certainly much different than what I’m used to at home.

To be honest, it feels a lot like I’m in a K-12 Oklahoma school, sitting behind a content filter– but the censorship is actually NOT as severe from what I’ve seen and experienced so far in a Chinese hotel as it is in a U.S. public school. With a free service like available and not blocked, the entire web is actually open to me very readily. The cat and mouse game over blocking proxy server addresses in many U.S. K-12 schools actually makes the process of circumventing a content filter a bit more challenging there. It’s interesting to experience censorship of Internet content firsthand, directed and administered by a central government. If you’re not sitting behind a governmentally controlled content filter right now, count your blessings…..

More to come in the days ahead from Shanghai! 🙂


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3 responses to “Working behind the great firewall of China”

  1. Lisa Parisi Avatar

    It’s so interesting to hear what you have to go through to have access to information in China. Keep it coming. I’ll live vicariously through you and stay here in the States. 🙂

  2. Karla M. Avatar
    Karla M.

    Interesting insights Wes. I chuckled at your comparison to content filtering in K-12. Reading with anticipation for the days ahead.

  3. Barry Dahl Avatar

    Hi Wes,
    On my last trip to China in late May I used the TOR or The Onion Router. It worked great. I could access every one of my sites, including Flickr, Blogger, WordPress, etc.
    I love Shanghai although I was only there for three days on my first-ever trip to China. I leave in about a week for Indonesia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Macau, and Korea. I’ll have TOR installed just in case, but I don’t think I will have any problems in those countries.
    Take care and enjoy, Barry