Wikipedia and Blogspot, ho! China's Net wall falling?

I had just finished mentioning how hard it is to fully participate in Wikipedia from China. But suddenly, English-language Wikipedia is accessible tonight from Beijing.

I just got done mentioning how hard it is for me to fully participate in Wikipedia from China. But English-language Wikipedia is suddenly accessible tonight from Beijing.

Obviously, Chinese officials read this blog and care very much about my opinions. (Blogspot's available too, but I didn' t ask for that. So whatever.)

I can't say I discovered this on my own. Danwei's "Net Nanny" post tipped me off.

I can confirm that both Wikipedia and Blogspot work from my connection and that this will make my life easier.

But as Danwei, the Chinese media and culture site, reports, Wikipedia's Chinese-language site is still blocked. Thus unfortunately, the argument that I made previously--that Wikipedia still lacks very important participation from this part of the world--will continue to stand.

The iconic Olympic sites in Beijing Graham Webster

An Associated Press article coinciding with the change notes that Olympic officials are grappling with how to keep up appearances with foreigners as they arrive in Beijing. The usual estimate is that 500,000 people will come for the games. In the article, an official was quoted as saying he hoped the Internet would be open for media during the games:

Kevan Gosper, vice chairman of the IOC coordinating commission, said blocking the Internet during the games "would reflect very poorly" on the host nation.

"Even this morning we discussed and insisted again," Gosper said. "Our concern is that the press is able to operate as it has at previous games--at games time."

Gosper said the Chinese had an obligation under the so-called "host city agreement" to open Internet access to 30,000 accredited and non-accredited journalists expected to attend.

"There was some criticism that the Internet closed down during events relating to Tibet in previous weeks, but this is not games time," Gosper said.

Danwei calls this an "explanation," but I think it's more ambiguous. This change is similar to the unblocking of the English BBC News site in recent days: the Chinese counterpart is still blocked. The strategy of allowing open access in English and other non-Chinese languages while restricting Chinese-language sites feels like a P.R. move. Journalists from other countries will stop complaining so much about not being able to screw around online and comment on their friends' blogs, and the Chinese authorities still get to control content for the majority of Chinese Net users.

The two changes may also reflect a technical similarity, and possibly new infrastructure. The Chinese and English Wikipedia sites are differentiated using subdomains: cn.wikipedia.org vs. en.wikipedia.org. Similarly, the URLs for English and Chinese news on BBC are easily differentiable. This may mean a shift from IP filtering to URL filtering. Either way, offending requests still appear to be met with "connection resets."

About the author

    Formerly a journalist and consultant in Beijing, Graham Webster is a graduate student studying East Asia at Harvard University. At Sinobyte, he follows the effects of technology on Chinese politics, the environment, and global affairs. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network, and is not an employee of CNET. Disclosure.

     

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