Shanghai’d – Prologue

Slowly but surely I have been marking off the list of things that make people I know say ‘What the hell, you’ve lived in Hong Kong for how long and you haven’t done that yet?’ I managed to do a nice big chunk of touristy stuff during Chinese New Year week, The Peak, fireworks, the ferry across Victoria Harbour for the Tsim Sha Tsui parade. I haven’t gone to see that giant Buddha statue yet or gone up into the countryside although I keep promising Julia I will visit for a walk and I will one day it’s just that, you know, chronic laziness. You understand. The big one that has started to creep into the list of ‘things you should have done by now, what are you a mong?’ is going to Mainland China. Tomorrow I can mark that one off the list too.

As the highly cerebral title may have tipped you off, I am going to Shanghai tomorrow for a couple of weeks maybe. Hong Kong has been described as the place where East meets West (as approximately two million other places have been) and as such as always seemed like a gateway country. They get you started on the easy stuff and then before you know it WHAM you’re into the hardcore Mainland cities. It’s been seriously influenced by its time as a British colony and the fact that it has turned into such a financial destination. It’s a comforting degree of Asian for nervous Englishmen basically. Diet China if you will. Shanghai inhabits the space a couple of notches up, not quite China proper (apparently you have to work your way up to Beijing) but a good chunk more authentic than this island here. In true David style I’m just going to jump feet first into this one, holding my nose and hoping for the best, it seems to have worked out so far but then it dawned on me that it would be far more pertinent to gather some research first. Why you ask… because I spent over 75% (approx.) of my time on the Internet that’s why.

Yes the thorny issue of censorship. Now I’m not going to wade in and start condemning people left right and centre (or even extreme left, extreme right and left of centre) because I’m not exactly well versed on the complexities of this issue. All I want to know China is, will I be able to look at maps, will I be able to talk to my friends back home, will I be able to waste my time watching TV streams and of course, will I be able to w-CENSORED BY THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA-like most men use the Internet for. I mean it’s not as if I want to look at-CENSORED BY THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA-with goats that would just be weird, I just need to know what is and what isn’t available to me. So where can I go for information I know to be one hundred percent accurate and trustworthy while I wait for an actual Chinese contact to get back to me?

Boom. Let’s do this.

List of Notable Websites Blocked in the People’s Republic of China.
Right off the bat I can see that the Chinese Wikipedia itself is actually blocked in the Mainland so that’s useful, it would stop me dead if I was writing this in Chinese. Unless I was creating this entry on the days BBC reporters came over for the Olympic Games last year and the site was conveniently unblocked I would have had to go through a process of trial and error on every single website I could think of. Thankfully that wouldn’t be necessary as all other languages you can read the site in are unblocked as of April 2008. Mind you my long-planned and completely existent masterpieces on the Dalai Lama and Falun Gong would sadly have to go unpublished as neither of those subjects can be reached.

Firmly in the ‘Huh?’ section is the blocking of Uncyclopedia (which seems quite uncharitable) and IMDB. What’s wrong with IMDB? Where else am I supposed to go for ridiculous amounts of trivia and continuity mistakes no-one care about? Where else should I go if I can’t remember the name of him out of that thing, you know the guy with the hair?

Turns out it was Bill Pullman.

Most news sites seem to be unblocked now so that’s cool for the rare times I remember the Huffington Post exists (like the time I stole pictures for my Not News images from them last month. Thanks guys!) Ok, moving down the list there’s… there’s… oh my god no. Facebook? Facebook is blocked? How will I know what dumb shit people I don’t care about have become a fan of now? (FUN FACT: I went to Facebook to find a bafflingly insipid example of someone doing just that on the homepage but all I could see was ‘…became a fan of Percy Pigs from Marks and Spencers’ and I am completely fine with this.) No I knew Facebook was blocked and to be perfectly honest I’m looking forward to a world without it for a while. I mean it’s not as if they blocked Yout-

…Now you’re just taking the piss China. Way to go Tibetan Protesters. Pfft.

Blogspot blogs are totally blocked too (sorry Poppy) but it’s not all bad, Twitter is blocked as well which gives me a warm, contented feeling. I hate Twitter, especially because of how incredibly useful it can be and how much it’s creeping up on me and looking more and more like a useful, practical thing to do. I just can’t face the idea of scrabbling around to try and find useful and interesting ways Twitter is being used by digging past all the poorly spelt shit that drops off famous people’s fat fingers. Frankly the idea of some misinformed Twitter fanatic whipping out their poxy bloody iPhone as soon as they land in China with the intention of sending a tweet or twoot or twat or whatever you call them only to get that horrible sinking feeling when they realise they won’t be able to prattle on about inane minutiae in 140 characters, well it sustains me. It makes me happy. I am completely unapologetic about it.

Who knows, perhaps with more free time to spend, having been released from the kung fu grip of social networking and videos of cats playing keyboards or something, I will have more of an opportunity to sample the local flavour, visit the temples (if I don’t feel too out of place and don’t mind smelling like incense all day afterwards) take in the night life. I’m very much looking forward to it, another place to cross off the list after all. But I’ll tell you this Hu Jintao, if you think blocking Youtube will stop me from-CENSORED BY THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA-pirouetting three hundred and sixty degrees and-CENSORED BY THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA-with only my little finger and some elbow grease you are sorely mistaken my friend.

It’ll be interesting to see if this blog is blocked actually.



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