This website has been officially censored. Thank you, Chairman Mao.
The brightest of the glaring problems in China has got to be the utter inability of the people to say what they want. Now, every country has its restrictions on freedom of speech. England has an “official secrets” act. One of Japan’s many media taboos involves criticizing the Imperial household. In America, it used to be limited to slight variations on yelling “fire” in a crowded theater, although with King George in power the list of forbidden subjects has been growing obscenely fast.
In China, though, there is no privately-owned media that hasn’t been subjected to severe government restriction. It just doesn’t exist. The Internet, on the other hand, is freely accessible. Net cafes around China are the cheapest I’ve seen, with most charging either two or three yuan (less than 25 to 50 cents) per hour, and you can just as easily surf over to salon.com as you can to literotica.com.
Certain URLs containing some reference to Japan in them, though, appear to be permanently disabled. The Japan Times web site is accessible, but this site is not. My own Big In Japan is not. Hotmail is usually non-functioning behind the great firewall, and even Gmail, run by the same Google folks who seem to be in bed with the Chinese government, occasionally goes on the blink.
The idiocy of the logic behind this has been just as frustrating as anything else I’ve encountered on this trip. It’s not as if the Chinese have banned all sites about Japan, or all web-based email. And given the nature of doing business with the government, where bribing is as common as breathing, it’s possible to infer that having the government approval that Google does doesn’t actually get your users many benefits.
The broadband network throughout China clearly works well enough for the thousands of Net cafe patrons and denizens to waste enormous chunks of time playing their MMRPGs (massively multiplayer role-playing game) that need fast connections for the quick response times the games demand.
So if it’s not bribes, and it’s not connectivity, and it’s not ideological censorship, what the heck is it?