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I'm traveling to china for a couple of weeks for work. I don't do anything where information security or intellectual property is a huge concern, but I do want to be in touch with the home office so to speak and also with my family. Do major popular western web services e.g. Gmail, Skype, Dropbox work in China or does the 'great firewall' make then mostly useless?

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    Don't try to log on to any personal services that you have in an internet cafe, it is not safe and your password could be lost – Huangism Mar 9 '15 at 14:05
  • @Huangism I'm not expert on it, but is it only true of any services that don't conform to HTTPS, right? – Blaszard Jul 7 '16 at 16:40
  • @Blaszard don't log into any personal service in internet cafe. The protocol doesn't matter. Your password is going to get key logged. Just use the wifi in your hotel and use your personal computer or phone to check email, etc... – Huangism Jul 8 '16 at 16:02
  • @Huangism Ah, did you mean logging on to a computer that is served in the cafe? I thought you use your laptop with the WiFi provided at the cafe... – Blaszard Jul 10 '16 at 10:03
  • @Blaszard yea sorry, don't use internet cafe computers to log onto personal services. If you just wanted to check say hockey scores, then sure, but if you want to check email, do not use a cafe computer. If you use your laptop, it should be ok – Huangism Jul 11 '16 at 12:58
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Fret not, travel.stackexchange.com works just fine :D

For other services, however, currently there are over 2700 sites blocked in Mainland China.

Wikipedia maintains a list of popular sites or services blocked in mainland China. Pretty much all Google services, Yahoo, Dropbox, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and more - see the list for details.

I can confirm when I was in Beijing recently, I tried a lot of major ones on that list, and pretty much anything useful was blocked (although Bing was only partially blocked).

I resigned myself to just watching TV, and then realised my Skype was online! I tried it, and sure enough the service is active - and I was able to call New Zealand, however there are other restrictions on the service in China. I'd suggest having it preinstalled.

  • You might have considerable trouble signing in to StackExchange from an internet cafe or hotel room computer though. And you might have trouble finding Wi-Fi if you're not staying in a backpacker hostel. – hippietrail Aug 27 '14 at 5:14
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    @hippietrail indeed. Also any google element (javascript file, advert) on a page wouldn't load. So yeah, if you weren't already signed in, you'd have difficulties doing so. – Mark Mayo Aug 27 '14 at 5:15
  • There were two main reasons and one suspected reason: 1) Most of these use ancient and broken Internet Explorer 6, have no other browsers installed, and have management software to prevent you from installing new software. 2) There will be a crap-ton of malware, adware, and crapware installed, most of which is China-specific, only in Chinese, intrusive, buggy, and you won't be familiar with. 3) Some of the intrusive stuff installed could be spying on you either officially by secret government or unofficially due to corruption. – hippietrail Aug 27 '14 at 5:19
  • This was on my macbook air, definitely no IE6 - it's more that they block Google, I suspect. But yes, the airport PCs had IE6. I wasn't going to use those. – Mark Mayo Aug 27 '14 at 5:24
  • Yes if you do manage to get Wi-Fi you'll have a lot fewer hassles, just those imposed by the Great Firewall of China. But in my two months travelling on and off the major tourist path Wi-Fi is never available in ineternet cafes and seldom in the cheaper hotels. But always in hostels. – hippietrail Aug 27 '14 at 5:26
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The Wikipedia article on this subject is often incorrect. For up to date info on which sites are blocked, I suggest you look at https://en.greatfire.org/ who actually test the sites availability.

The main ones your will miss are Google (everything including Gmail and Play App store on your phone), YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, Blogspot, Wordpress, Vimo, Slideshare, WSJ, NYTimes, and most popular porn and gambling sites.

Yahoo! and Bing do work in China but are subject to censorship on some search terms. Dropbox does work if you have it installed. I use it all the time.

Good ideas if coming to China: register a Yahoo! mail account and temporarily redirect your Gmail to Yahoo!. Get used to using bing.com to search instead of Google. Entertain yourself on Youku.com instead of YouTube - China has funny cat videos too (search for 有趣的猫).

If you really need to get on a blocked site, it is relatively easy to install a VPN on your computer and phone. They cost just a few dollars a month.

  • Even VPNs aren't a panacea for the Great Firewall. I found many of the nodes of mine blocked the last time I was over there. – Loren Pechtel Mar 9 '15 at 2:16
  • @Loren Pechtel a VPN isn't a panacea, but they are the simplest tool currently available to get past the censors. – Rincewind42 Mar 9 '15 at 12:10

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