The Great Firewall is a blessing and a curse, for all involved.
Blessing. Their kids can’t access porn, Youtube vids on how to make bombs, or things like “To girls, one cup”. You don’t have to buy internet filters for your family because the virtual vomit that people place on the net is blocked by The Great Firewall. China is also able to keep out companies like Google and Skype which are threatening to take over a developing market. The second graders want to play basketball but the fifth graders show up and take over the court. It’s not fun, so the second graders take their ball and go home. I think it’s completely understandable. By controlling what’s on the internet China’s government is also able to stabilize a very unstable nation. In the west we’re used to protesters. They’re just a bunch of hippies, high on grass. In China when protesters get out on the street, the military shows up and people run inside and cover their eyes. The more of these situations China avoids, the better. No wonder they want to keep stuff about the Xinjiang Riots quiet.
Curse. No freedom. As an American, freedom is just one of those things that comes with being alive. How dare you tell me what I can and can’t do on the internet. People are curious about what’s going on in the world, what Facebook is all about. People want to reach out and make friends abroad. They want to express their opinions and be heard. They can’t with The Great Firewall in the way.
Expats and Foreigners
Blessing. Get off Facebook and Youtube and get out there. You’re in China! This may be the last time you’re here. Do you really have to take photos of everything and send them back home? Learn some Chinese, meet some people, get into a kung fu battle at the bar. There’s a lot to be learned by getting off of all these addictive social bookmarking sites and getting into the real world.
Curse. Sometimes it’s nice to have the convenience of your family and friends being a call away on Skype. And it’s so cheap! Or maybe you have lots of friends and don’t have the time to email them ALL individually so a status update will do fine. The Great Firewall make things just so much more difficult. Are people trying to overthrow the Chinese government? No (usually, but in light of recent events in Egypt, maybe they are). China, chill out. We’re not going to Tweet you to Democracy.
Anyone who is unhappy with The Great Firewall just gets a vpn in China. However, in part because of the Twitter Revolution in Egypt China’s gone a bit overboard and blocked PPTP and L2TP protocols leaving mobile vpn’s useless. They’ve also begun to block some of the larger companies providing vpn’s in China.