The main China internet issue, of course is that the Chinese government actually has the quaint idea that you can censor what people see. The 'Great Firewall of China' is intended to prevent the citizenry from seeing many western internet sites, including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and the New York Times. As a teacher, I really rely on YouTube for getting little video clips that underscore the topics of my lessons. And of course, the bare idea that someone is telling me what I can and cannot read is risible. Not all news sites and blogs are censored, and probably the list is always chopping and changing. Apparently the Chinese don't mind if I read England's Daily Mail.
You can circumvent the Firewall by paying to subscribe to a Virtual Proxy Network (VPN) service. I don't pretend to understand how it works, but the "purpose of using both VPN and proxy servers is to conceal the users identity, or to spoof a certain geo-location (so for example geo-locked services such as many TV streaming websites may be watched outside their country of origin)." So says one of the providers of this service. For example, it's possible for me to watch BBC television shows now.
Compared to North Korea, the Chinese Firewall is pretty porous. North Koreans are kept utterly in the dark about the outside world. Just as Russian youth under Communism were excited about the Beatles and Levi's jeans, North Koreans take great risks to surreptitiously watch North American TV shows smuggled into the country on USB sticks and CDs.
However, for the past few months I've been reading that the Chinese authorities are cracking down on VPN providers, trying to disable the service. I think my own internet problems stem from the fact that we're sharing a network, but who knows, maybe the tap will be shut off at any time.
The Chinese also employ many people -- hundreds of thousands, we're told -- to patrol the internet and write pro-government comments in news articles, and in Chinese chat forums. These operatives are known derisively as the "50 Cent Party" because they are supposedly paid half a yuan for every comment they write.
I think I've spotted some 50 Cent operatives posting on English-language Chinese news sites. Consider these comments on a news forum article about changes to China's national football (soccer) program.
jpczzb wrote 2015-3-17 10:44
the future of chinese soccer basically reside in the determination and comprehensive support from high-level officials. The strongest zeal from the mess [mass] for the development of chinese soccer sport is all-the-timely burning.
huangyuzhan wrote 2015-3-17 09:56
Only Uncle Xi steped in, the football in China can be soaring [China's Premier is Xi Jin Ping.]
Yeah, sure, all Chinese citizens talk about the "strongest zeal from the masses" and refer to their leader as "Uncle."
It's funny and sad, but as I was writing this, it occurs to me that speech patrol is basically now what the internet is all about. In the West, the internet has now become a huge battleground where people argue over what you can and cannot say, and whether someone's racist or homophobic or anti-Semitic remark is sufficiently outrageous to justify that person being fired or hounded out of public life.
Speaking of, did you know Monica Lewinsky has recently given a TED talk? I haven't seen it yet because my internet's too slow tonight...