There are just a couple of days to go before we jump head-first into China, and I discover a new twist. The last time I was in 中国 (Zhōngguó, the middle kingdom) about the only part of my normal web-world that I could access was gmail. So, having finished most of my planning, I decided to check out what I am likely to be able to be able to access on-line this time.
It turns out that google is banned in China. This was news which I had seen but not registered, and it brings my travel plans crashing. Gmail is one of my main communication channels to the world. I was planning to use google translate and google maps to get around. The first reaction is OMG. The second, "What about VPN?" Of course, I’m not the first one to think of this. There is an ongoing battle to control VPN traffic, and it seems that this is not likely to work either. As I try to salvage my life in the next few weeks, I realize that the problem is of my creation: I let my life be taken over by a single corporation.
The first time I encountered the E-sharp note, I had the same sense of confusion: do I really know a keyboard at all? And slowly: do I really know music? Now I have a similar feeling. Of course, the immediate problem is caused by the government of China trying to shut out alternative viewpoints. But at the same time, I need to look outside the comfortable corner of the web I had allowed myself to be locked into. This is good. The problem is time.
China does not censor the whole web. I think I should be able to post to this blog, and do some of my reading on wordpress. As far as I can check, I should be able to get to most yahoo services. I could shop on Amazon if I wanted to. Whatsapp should work, I think. I can switch to Bing search, though I’ve never tried it before. A few days ago I tried out my chinese language skills by watching TV serials on youku, which is a working alternative to youtube inside China. If only I can figure out mapping and translation sites which work inside China before I leave, I can get part of my travel plans back up again.