You may have noticed a few days of inactivity on Nomadic Mindburst. I have been traveling to Asia and without an internet connection. I am finally connected again though, unfortunately, the site will have to lay dormant for one more day…
I am writing from the airport in Shanghai, China, on my way to Cambodia for a conference. I had a one night layover here, my first time in the city. As I got into a cab yesterday at Pu Dong International Airport and sped (literally!) towards the city, it was easy to see China’s incredible economic growth. The skyline is filled with high-rise apartment buildings and new multistory houses stretching to the horizon, and the port is full with cargo ships queuing to unload their shipments of goods from around the world. Once in the city, walking along the famous “Bund” (the main waterfront avenue and former British settlement in Shanghai), the modern cityscape of skyscrapers is comparable to no other. On the surface, the city is booming.
There is, however, another darker side to China’s unparalleled economic success; free access to information is highly controlled. While I knew this to be true from almost daily stories in the media, I had yet to experience the reality of Chinese censors for myself. Sate run censors block access to a host of internet sites deemed a threat to national security and stability, among them Google, Facebook, and Twitter. China operates its own versions of the latter two (QQ.com and Weibo), and only allows access to Google Hong Kong, all of which are closely monitored by the State. Adding to the list, another site I soon found to be blocked is the hosting site for Nomadic Mindburst, WordPress.
For me wanting to post my blog amounts to a mere frustration, for I know that later this evening from my hotel in Phnom Penh (where I am now), I will have uncensored access to the internet. At a macro level, however, it amounts to a crisis. In China, the largest population in the world lacks almost any means to share unfiltered news with the outside world, while they receive through Chinese media a carefully choreographed version of what is actually happening around them. From the news that does reach the international media (including recent cases of self-immolation of monks in Tibet and village-wide protests in Wukan, in southern Guangdong Province), it is clear that the citizens are struggling to make their voices heard, and advocating for policies that respond to their needs and demands. I am determined to turn my frustration into action. If any readers have experience blogging from China (as I know there are ways around the firewalls), I want to hear your stories, struggles, viewpoints, and advice.