As of midnight last Friday, February 5th, it was announced that 27 more “outside Xinjiang” websites have been opened in addition to the four sites that were already accessible. After spending this past weekend searching over all these sites I can tell you that progress has been made, although each of them loads quite slowly. What’s more…one of them doesn’t load at all (the China Rail site received a “Connection Interrupted”).
Excuse me, folks. That would be 26 more websites open, not 27.
A Look at What’s New
The sites can be divided into about 9 different categories and although a few of them offer alternative languages like English, none of them represents a foreign-based business. I’ve categorized them as follows:
- 7 News Sites (including China Daily and CCTV)
- 4 Travel Sites (including Ctrip and Air China)
- 3 Business & Finance Sites
- 3 Telecom Sites (all three major Chinese carriers)
- 2 Shopping Sites (including Taobao, China’s version of eBay)
- 2 Computer Service Sites (so you can update your anti-virus)
- 2 Gaming Sites (more flash games…yippee)
- 2 Education Sites (study materials for students and help for teachers)
- 1 Fashion Site
Unlike Sina and Sohu (which underwent heavy censorship), each of these sites when viewed in Xinjiang seems to match those viewed outside. However, as is the rule in Xinjiang for now, all email and forum capabilities are disabled.
What’s Still Unavailable?
Lots, but that’s not my point. Although I’m bubbling with excitement over the fact that I now don’t have enough fingers and toes to count how many websites are available in Xinjiang, I’m still puzzled by certain sites that have yet to be opened.
For instance, did you know that I can’t view the Communist Party website? I can’t even view the central government website from Beijing. Can anybody venture a guess as to why that is?
China’s Strategy: Bore Them to Death
You might be getting tired of counting new sites being opened in Xinjiang as “news”. I know I am. If, however, you’re waiting for a single day when Xinjiang will suddenly “turn on the internet”, I have some bad news for you.
I believe China is strategically opening small parts of the internet and making headline news out of each event knowing full-well that the international media’s attention span won’t keep up. We’re already getting bored. 27 more sites are opened in Xinjiang today, 50 more next week…who cares?
Meanwhile the flow of information is being strictly controlled and authorities still take the opportunity to declare a state of freedom on the internet.
One Final Thought on Censorship
Right now the difference between internet in Xinjiang and the rest of China is determined by the way we describe the censorship. Throughout most of China people explain the Great Firewall by the number of sites which have been blocked; in Xinjiang we count how many sites have been unblocked. That’s a huge difference.
As long as I’m always counting up, I will never consider Xinjiang’s internet truly “restored”.
UPDATE: On May 14th, 2010 the internet – including email – was restored to the province. Read more about Xinjiang’s internet restoration.
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