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A friend of mine is going to China for almost a month until mid August. He want to know what kind of outside communication he will be able to use to communicate with his family/friends.

We already know that Facebook is blocked but is it also on mobile devices? Also what about Whatsapp that belongs to Facebook now?

Please if you have any resource online that you can link here that will be great. My Friend is from Central Europe.

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VPN connection is the solution. –  Bernhard Jul 27 at 12:55
    
I am not really a computer guy, could you please help me more? –  test Jul 27 at 13:01
    
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_private_network When I was in China, I could use VPN via my employer. –  Bernhard Jul 27 at 13:05
    
Where will he be staying? IIRC, big hotels generally had the "official" internet, but some smaller hostels have a VPN set up for their guests (and for advertising themselves Facebook :) ). –  Max Jul 27 at 19:48
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@damryfbfnetsi It's about being able to maintain access to information whilst travelling, sop is very much about travelling. I relied heavily on FB messaging to stay in touch with local friends and possible hosts, and made extensive use of wikitravel, during my travels. The Great Firewall would interfere with this and thus with safe travelling. –  imoatama Jul 29 at 5:51

4 Answers 4

In general, the big social networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc) are blocked from within China. This applies to mobile devices too. (I'm not sure about Whatsapp, I didn't try it when I was there last year, and it might have changed since then anyway.) Gmail worked, and most other web-based email provides probably will too.

Most foreigners who spend a lot of time in China set themselves up with a VPN of some kind, which essentially tunnels their web traffic to somewhere outside of China before it hits the Internet. If you Google for "VPN china" you will find a wide variety of choices.

The Chinese government seems to allow these VPN connections (and not try to block them), probably because most Chinese citizens wouldn't have a way to pay for them in any case. The big credit card system in China is "UnionPay" which is accepted almost nowhere outside China. Foreigners would be able to pay for VPN service somehow and the Chinese government isn't terribly interested in blocking foreigners' access to the Internet.

Finally, if you've got an unlocked cell phone then it's pretty easy to get a local SIM card with data service. For example, for 100 RMB (about 12 €), you can get a prepay SIM card and with some amount (maybe 100 MB) of data. Then you can top it up by buying additional credit. The providers have systems that interact in both Mandarin and English. (I think I had a SIM from China Unicom.)

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I haven't been to China, but I have visited Iran and the filtering technology is similar. For the entirety of my world trip, before arriving in IRan, I was using a personal VPN from AnonyProz to secure my connection when eg using public wifi.

I was surprised to find that this VPN did not work at all in Iran, despite being run over port 443 (HTTPS/SSL). This means that they deploy Deep Packet Inspection to detect the protocol being used rather than just blocking per-port (443 is needed for much of the web so is not blocked overall).

The one thing that does seem to work wherever you are is Tor. I highly recommend you make sure you have a copy before you go, and then use it to bootstrap whatever other VPN solution you can find that works.

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My experience is that social media and major news sites are normally blocked. Likewise, Wikipedia.

You can usually get the news from a newspaper's website that isn't one of the big newspapers, although the filter will sometimes decide a certain page isn't to be had even then.

Note that I have also encountered an internet cafe that was running something that rendered Google useless and redirected you to Baidu--which would do a very poor job when given English search terms.

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Here is a list of blocked Alexa Top 100 domains:

https://en.greatfire.org/search/alexa-top-1000-domains

You can also test your URL using there tools.

The IM you can use:

  • Skype

  • iMessage

  • wechat

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