Building Blocks

I honestly believe that Shanghai is the Chinese government’s testing grounds for internet filtering/blocking. The speed of the internet overall, as well as the number of sites blocked ranges so widely and changes so frequently that I’m not sure what other explanation there is. For the past few days, here in Shanghai a significantly higher number of sites were blocked than usual. Not my site, or, or Metafilter, but about half of the links I clicked on those last two sites wouldn’t work. My usual proxies didn’t work either.

Speaking of proxies not working, it seems that the number of China blogs hosted on Blogspot (AKA Blockspot) is increasing. I’ve got a bunch of China Blog List submissions waiting to be verified/added, but I can’t do that when even my proxies won’t work.

Why do so many choose Blogspot? There are so many options out there these days. I think if I were to have to choose a free blog service now I’d go with Blogsome. It uses the increasingly popular WordPress blogging platform, and it’s free and ad-free (except for a tiny text link in the footer).

Sidenote: I randomly came across these crazy China photos of an insanely tall man (as tall as the moon, you might say) posted on a Spanish Blogsome blog.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. John,

    have you tried using (or similar portals) as a portal to access these blocked sites?

    it would be nice if we could mirror some of the websites/blogs out there…

    could you email me the list of sites that are currently blocked at your side and I perhaps can mirror it via RSS feed?

    what do you think?


  2. Are you sure it’s a Great Firewall issue? When I was in Changchun I had the same kinds of problems, but after a little research it turned out that my ISP’s DNS servers were overloaded and timing out. Nothing nefarious, just low quality of service. I set up a local DNS server that queries the root servers directly and had no problems from then on out.

    It doesn’t seem sensible to use Shanghai (with, I’m guessing, the most network traffic of anywhere in China) to test new filtering regimes. A second tier city like Hangzhou (or smaller) would make more sense, as it still has a lot of activity but not nearly that of Shanghai, and there are less large corporations and the like to piss off by disrupting service.

  3. A lot of people at the Shanghai Webloggers Meetup were complaining of a slow-down recently. For my part, I haven’t noticed anything. Maybe it’s just a problem with DSL/cable modem service providers?

  4. This is just my impression, but I’ve been feeling like the word filters have been stepped up recently (here in Beijing). Sites will cough and refuse to load for reasons I can’t explain. On Metafilter, for example – this thread will halt [no responsibility taken for any heat this link brings down]. Apparently it’s not uniform across the country, though – the ESWN post mentioned on Danwei loads up 10% before stopping here, but others can get the whole thing.

    There are other things that seem to have become a bit more sensitive lately, although my Stockholm syndrome is allowing me to happily enjoy typepad.

  5. 2.42m on that guy from Shanxi, apparently.
    Also in the news last year, a 2.4m guy from Hunan, and a shepherd from Inner Mongolia, 2.38m. Imagine the “ÈçÀ´ÉñÕÆ” the last guy should be able to do…

    They all, of course, claim to be “the tallest man in Asia”.

  6. My boss has a yahoo mail account and used POP to access it. But for the last week or two, the mail program (in fact, any mail program I’ve tested) will establish the POP connection and start downloading and then suddenly drop out in the middle of a message. And then a connection cannot be reestablished for about 10 minutes afterwards. It’s only a guess, but one possible reason would be that the content of the messages is triggering a keyword filter. (A workaround would be to connect via SSL, ie encrypted POP, but unfortunately yahoo doesn’t offer that service).

  7. Just got into Nanjing and can’t get on to Gmail. Is that common?

    zhjw, is ÈçÀ´ÉñÕÆ the style that Stephen Chow used at the end of Kung Fu Hustle? On a completely unrelated note, can anyone explain the appeal of Kung Fu Hustle? First Stephen Chow movie I actively disliked.

  8. wayne: I’ve heard as much, but I haven’t seen the movie yet myself. There was a hit movie from the early Eighties called “Buddha Palm” in which the hero shot special effects out of his hands (here’s an entertaining review). What does Stephen Chow do with it?

  9. Da Xiangchang Says: February 25, 2005 at 2:46 pm

    Poor guy. All that height, and he’s not even in the NBA. It must suck to be a freak, especially in China, the land of the giggling rubberneckers. (However, I’m really glad Yao Ming is playing in America. I ain’t homo, but he’s not a bad-looking guy. And thank Christ you have a famous Asian guy who’s TALL.)

    Stephen Chow is an acquired taste. About 1/3rd of his movies are funny. Forbidden City Cop was funny, and Shaolin Soccer was alright. I just saw a HORRIBLE Hong Kong movie last night: A World Without Thieves. Wretched, wretched movie! If 90% of Hollywood movies are crap, surely 95% of Hong Kong movies are shit!

  10. It’s funny, I’ve heard different people around different parts of China having trouble getting onto particular sites – internet standardisation is still to hit, it seems, but its clear Blogspot is firmly blocked. True, you can access those pages through anonymouse and the like, but it’s real mafan, especially if you want to post comments, or if you own such a site. Hassle.

    Wholeheartedly recommend WordPress even though I’m pretty clueless about the whole thing.

  11. There is a great program made by chinese called u17r4$urf. You won’t have any problem to open forbidden sites like r3/\/m|/\/b40 [sensitive words converted to leetspeak due to reports of possible filtering of this site]

  12. Hi, i became a blogspot user before i found out that it is inaccessible from China. That’s bad luck… It seems that many people are using msn space now. Is it part of microsoft’s monopolistic plan again?

  13. Just checked out blogsome, definitely switching… I found wordpress (the ordinary one) too hard and with hardly any options like blogspot… blogspot I can fiddle with my template really easily even though i know nothing about computers. Seems like blogsome is going to allow that too because it’s basically a copy of blogspot (hurrah).

    Is gmail an issue in China??? I specifically got gmail so I could have heaps of space for recieving photos and stuff from home… may have to keep a hotmail as well do you think?? ANyone else had gmail issues?

  14. Gmail was spotty when I first arrived, until somebody mentioned that the spottiness disappeared when you use https (as in, instead of plain http. In fact, I think this may be the default now, so no problems at all.

  15. Yeah I’ve a Blogsome blog and it knocks the socks of Blogger as far as I’m concerned.

  16. Asia by Blog

    Asia by Blog is a twice weekly feature providing links to Asian blogs and their views on the news in this fascinating region. Previous editions can be found here. This edition contains a funny Singaporean morning show, repopulating Hong Kong, reverse o…

  17. I am having a great problem retrieving mail from my yahoo mail pop server over in Shanghai. It was working perfectly home when i was back at home. Anyone facing such problems too ? I guess they must have done some degree of blocking again….

  18. I’ve just moved here, and I’m not able to get my wife’s yahoo pop service up and running using outlook. What a pain. I’ve been playing around with it for a couple of days now, and this is the first time I’ve thought of some “outside interference”.. anyone found a solution?

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