Google is really just one of over a hundred websites blocked in mainland China. How do I know this, besides reading about it in the New York Times? As I mentioned in previous posts, I landed in Guangzhou, China, in flying to and from Hanoi over the past two months. I politely told one of the hostesses in the airport travelers’ lounge that I was unable to connect to Google, and received a very terse reply, “No Google.” Once over the border into Vietnam, I again became part of the Internet world, or at least to that part of the connected world where I spend a lot of my time.
I only revisited this topic in reading the Times’ article this week about China’s Internet Czar, Lu Wei, “stepping down” from his post. He had visited the U.S. this year and met with some of Silicon Valley’s giants such as Tim Cook, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg (I think he even wore a tie for the occasion). The Times article describes this leadership change as “a surprise move, but unlikely to signal a change in restrictive digital policies.” As for Mr. Wei, please don’t worry too much. China experts predict that he will likely end up getting a promotion in another area of the bureaucracy. It’s not uncommon for these important positions to be moved around frequently. Not exactly like the “up or out” policies in many other workplaces around the world.
What will happen next in terms of China’s digital policies is really anyone’s guess. Now if you had access to Google, you could probably just type in “social media in China.” I just did and got “very local and fragmented.” I guess that’s it, for now?