Google blocked in China

Perhaps it’s the approaching 17th anniversary of the massacre at Tiananmen Square (Sunday, June 4th) or the 40th anniversary of the start of the Cultural Revolution (Tuesday, June 6th), or maybe it’s just another attempt by the world’s rising second superpower to put the internet’s undisputed premiere force in its place, but at some point yesterday morning Google ceased to work in China–or at least here in Beijing.

For over 24 hours, Google, in all its manifestations and permutations, was absent from my life, limiting my ability to email, search, map, and track blogs. Blogspot has been blocked since August, Wikipedia joined the blacklist back in the fall, and Technorati has been offline here since April, but the first two sites were still reachable with an online anonymizer (I used anonymouse.org.), and I had Google Blogsearch to compensate for Technorati. The sidelining of the big G, however, was too much to handle–and I began to worry how I was ever going to make it in China until December. By now, and for me, Google is basically synonymous with the internet, and therefore with a great portion of my personal and working lives.

I’ve gotten around the censors by now with a hard-core proxy-server (I’m running FoxyProxy in Firefox alongside Tor.), but even I probably couldn’t have managed to figure that out without help from the awesome Brazilian super-tech guy, Lalo, from my office. Imagine the computing skills of the average Chinese person (for city residents, about the same as the typical American of the same age, with unsurprisingly less expertise in rural areas) and it’s easy to see what a huge demonstration of strength this was on the part of the Chinese government. If even I, a foreigner who could leave the country at any time she chose, who could still watch satellite TV, make international phone calls, and subvent the restrictions to reach most websites, felt besieged and cut off from the outside world, how must Chinese citizens feel?

One of the most surprising aspects of this whole censorship experience has been that I haven’t been able to find any information about it online. Part of that might be the inaccesibility of the best search engine available, but I searched all the usual alternatives (Yahoo, MSN, A9, even Whonu for “Google blocked China” and came up blank, or just about. I did find old articles and blog posts about prior instances of the government putting on a show of power for Google (for example in October 2002–part of a long history of the power struggle between these giants), but nothing relevant to what was actually happening here right now. It made me wonder if people here are afraid that the guardians of the Great Firewall of China might brand their blog with the mark of the barbarian hordes as well, and block their sites in China. I’m not too worried about what could happen to my site….I just really want to know what’s going on!

Update (6:16pm CST June 1st): I’ve found at least one other post about the block, at Matthew Stinson’s blog, which I read from time to time.

Update (12:29am CST June 4th): Looks like Richard over at The Peking Duck has caught up with the news as well, though from the comments it seems it might not be an issue everywhere in China.

Posted by on June 1st, 2006

20 Comments »

1

June 1, 2006 @ 9:24 pm

Nice essay, and thanks for the link. I think it might just be server load issues, but the fact that google.cn works perfectly makes me very suspicious. Blocking google.com and letting google.cn through was one of Rebecca MacKinnon’s worst-case scenarios for Google after their Chinese domain was rolled out. Is that scenario upon us?

2
ali said

June 1, 2006 @ 10:38 pm

Thanks :). It definitely seems like it might be–certainly something I’ve been worried about as well since the google.cn launch.

3
Lalo said

June 1, 2006 @ 11:12 pm

GMail is working pretty well for me tonight… but not reader or search.

4
ali said

June 2, 2006 @ 8:02 am

Even this morning search is still down for me–haven’t tried gmail, since at home I’m happier with Mail for OSX anyway :).

5
Afroz said

June 3, 2006 @ 8:46 am

Finally!! Thank you very much for your post. I’m currently in China myself and I’ve been unable to access Google, GMail and the lot since about the same time as you. I too have been searching the web to see if I can find any related information and, until this post, turned up nothing. At least now I know it’s not just me.

At the moment, google.cn also seems unaccessible. Over the last couple of days, a couple of times Google did work for me for all of 5 seconds. The Great Firewall had a little hiccup?

Update as I write this… I just tried GMail and it works now.

Oh, I’m in Shangqiu in the Henan Province.

6
BJwoman said

June 3, 2006 @ 7:32 pm

Good Post. I wonder the same too. Odd thing is that I can’t find any others except me who’s talking about this. Just as you did, I searched for “google blocked in China” but could find nothing.I thought it might be my own computer’s problem, but I was wrong. As Chairman Mao is my witness I’m a good and obedient citizen but I live on google to do business. Grrrr… May Chairman Mao damn those who disabled google. :p

7
ali said

June 6, 2006 @ 9:16 am

Thanks for the reports from the rest of China. Access is still blocked here in Beijing….hopefully not for too much longer!

8

June 6, 2006 @ 9:48 am

[…] Meer informatie over wat er allemaal wordt geblokkeerd, en hoe je een en ander kan omzeilen vind je op volgende blog […]

9
Brandon said

June 6, 2006 @ 11:09 am

Here in Nanjing blocked at least since yesterday afternoon. Actually with an old cookie I was still able to log on, you know “remember me on this computer”. But I wanted to make sure I knew the pwd b/c I was trying to setup gmail w/ my new Xplore m98 palm os flipphone. after that i could not get on google/gmail any gproperty, access you now via peacefire.org, interested to checkout the firefox proxy you mentioned. I will write sth on my blog. spread the word. we have to complain about this. this is against wto right?

10
BJwoman said

June 6, 2006 @ 2:39 pm

I’m in Beijing too. But google defrozen to me already. My guess is that they were filtering out Jun4th info.

11
mumtaz said

June 6, 2006 @ 3:47 pm

I switched to gmail after having so much difficulty accessing hotmail. However, now I can’t access gmail. Frustrating!!! I live in Shanghai.

12
ali said

June 7, 2006 @ 9:29 am

Brandon–the firefox proxy works great, which is key since otherwise I’d still be Google-less here in Beijing….it’s still down. BJwoman–how are you accessing it?

13
Matthew said

June 8, 2006 @ 11:06 am

For what it’s worth, Google has been working pretty steady today. I’ll have to see what happens later in the day before I accept that the censorship window around the 4th has passed.

14
ali said

June 8, 2006 @ 7:00 pm

It’s actually been sporadically all right for me today too….the first day in a week :). Hopefully it’s back (sort of) for good.

15
BJwoman said

June 8, 2006 @ 7:14 pm

I was wrong. It just defroze for a little while. Now unaccessible again. I guess maybe I shouldn’t of told you that hahah.

16

June 9, 2006 @ 6:34 am

I have to think China is just doing this to mess with Google in retaliation for Brin saying he thought Google’s complying with China’s censors was a mistake.

17
BJwoman said

June 16, 2006 @ 12:55 am

I almost come here everyday lately. But why don’t you update your blog any more? *dissappointed*

18
Gilbert said

July 1, 2006 @ 8:38 pm

Got your blog from our friend here with blogchina. You can find some more details on the Great Firewall on my blog, especially regarding the download of e-mails. All pathetic, the time we lose with this. I feel things here are only getting worse. I never had problems till now with Google. Maybe just lucky…

19
Gilbert said

July 1, 2006 @ 8:40 pm

As I noticed my blog address did not come out, here it is: blog.strategy4china.com

20

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