As such, I don't use google, but use yahoo for foreign sites. Recently, I skip foreign websites all together. Its just to much of a hassle. Facebook is substituted by Tencent's WeChat. Amazon by Taobao. Ebay by Taobao. Well done! The state controlled approach to the capitalist market works.
I continue to apologize myself for under- or not performing skype calls, and poor pixel quality on our corporate video conference system. The later operates through a bloody expensive tunnel which should warrant a non-interference connection to our HQ. But we have learned to survive behind the great Chinese Firewall. We have learned to get to terms with less freedom. We, the foreigners used to a web that responds fast and without restraints.
Since August our daughter attends an international school in Shanghai and has homework that involves English speaking foreign websites like raz-kids or starfall. These websites are a great learning support, but guess what: they are either entirely blocked or slowed down to a non operable surfing experience.
A brief holiday in Thailand does feel a bit like having jumped over the Berliner Mauer. Even though I don't spend much time anymore on facebook, it's just great that I can read posts from my friends back home. Home is now Shanghai, and there most of our present day friends use WeChat for the same reasons we do. Therefore we don't have too much need to use facebook. It's just this feeling, that those bloody Beijing bureaucrats (BBBs) intrude on my life, bring obstacles to my privacy, seize freedom from me.
About a month ago I tried in a last effort to improve our home surfing situation and switched from 东方有线 (oriental cable) to 中国电信 (China Telecom). A 100 MB broad band connection instead of a 2 MB rather not so broad band sounded promising. But frustration soon set in as we realized our surfing quality was still subject to censorship.
Then a week later our so, I listened to sinica's podcast on the internet conference in Wuzhen and even though sensing that something must be going on, the parts eventually fell in place. Telling our IT engineer about the podcast he confirmed the WWW restructuring with some IP address tests that he had carried out. In other words, this is not just a policy, the re-structuring is already a fact.
These are just the observations of someone who has to deal with the web due to international private and corporate relations. But they boil down to a similar base line that is also discussed in both the mentioned podcast and the Chinafile conversation:
1. if China does not shape the internet, the internet will shape China - Western influence might thus - in old party jargon - pollute the Chinese mind and subvert the authority of the Communist Party.
2. the WWW increasingly turns into a bipolar virtual world with two civilization concepts as its antipodes; I would say one is rather based on technological purpose and limited bureaucratic intervention; and another one on technological intervention for bureaucratic purpose.
3. China's virtual conquest is indeed scary, because it offers a blue print for the real world and shows with which new negotiation styles the Western world will have to deal with. Is it ready though?