If you have been reading this newsletter for some time, you already know that I travel often. That will continue to hold true for the next week. This time I am traveling to Beijing, China.
Unlike most of my travels, this is not a genealogy-related trip. I have some “downtime” in my calendar and decided to take a vacation… by traveling again!
Many years ago, I spent a year in mainland China, back when the country was still a backwater third-world country. I managed a team effort for my employer when we installed multi-million dollar mainframe computers at 13 major Chinese engineering universities in 11 different cities. (This was before the invention of the desktop PC.) It was a great experience.
I understand the country has advanced radically since I left. For years, I have said to myself, “I would love to go back and see all the changes.” A recent email ad for a really cheap airfare to Beijing convinced me that, “If ever I want to go back, now is the time.” So I am flying to Beijing this week.
Now for the impact to this newsletter:
First, I will probably be busy being a tourist plus I am supposed to be on vacation. Those reasons alone may may account for fewer than normal articles in this newsletter next week. Next, I understand the “Great Firewall of China” is a big impediment for foreigners in China who attempt to connect to the Internet services they usually access when “back home.” For anyone in China, the “Great Firewall of China” blocks access to Google, Gmail, Google Maps, Facebook, Dropbox, Twitter, YouTube, and thousands of other web sites in the outside world. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Firewall for the details.)
For the past few years, the answer has been to use a VPN (virtual private network) when accessing the Internet from within China. In fact, I already use a VPN all the time anyway, both at home and when traveling anywhere. For more information about VPNs, read my articles at https://privacyblog.com/category/vpn-virtual-private-networking.
Unfortunately, the Chinese government recently ordered all Internet service providers in China to start blocking all VPN connections by individuals. (See the Bloomberg report at https://bloom.bg/2fZXuf7 for the details.) The deadline is to block all VPNs no later than February 1, 2018. Reportedly, some of the VPNs are already blocked while the Chinese Internet service providers are still figuring out how to block the remaining VPNs by the February 1 deadline.
Here’s the bottom line: I won’t know if I can access my own email or even this web site until I arrive in China and try to do so.
Don’t be surprised if I am “silent” for the next week. Hey! I’ll be on vacation!
Footnote: There seems to be a web site for every imaginable purpose, including one that tests web sites to see if they are accessible from within China. The site at http://www.greatfirewallofchina.org reports that the EOGN Newsletter at www.eogn.com is NOT blocked as of this time. However, my email service, along with Google, Gmail, Google Maps, Facebook, Dropbox, Twitter, and YouTube, are all blocked. The biggest problem is that the list of blocked sites changes day-by-day as new controls are enabled.
UPDATE: Some time after I wrote the above article, a new study was made: Which VPNs evade the Chinese Great Firewall? We got inside to find out. See https://comparite.ch/chinavpnstudy for the status as of May 2, 2019.
However, please keep in mind that the status of web sites being blocking by the “Great Firewall of China” changes frequently.