July 15th, 2011
06:48 AM GMT
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Beijing (CNN) – The infamous Great Firewall of China sent chills up my spine before I got on the plane for my summer internship here.  This abstract and intangible wall was intimidating – something that I could not prepare for in America before leaving for China.  I envisioned the Great Firewall to be something like hiking The Great Wall: exhausting and unconquerable.

Like most American college students, I am addicted to my Blackberry: the convenience at sending an e-mail on the go, keeping in touch with my family, and always being in-the-know, thanks to often pointless yet seemingly vital Facebook notifications. I could not fathom blocked internet access.

I am reliant on Facebook as a communication device.  My friends and I share a laugh at a picture or make fun of a friend’s overly-philosophical status update via laptops in class, computers at work, or cell phones walking across campus.  The thought of missing out scared me.

While Skyping with friends back at home, they brought up a rat that had been evading capture in my best friend’s apartment.  When I asked what they were talking about, they innocently replied, “Wait—you didn’t see it on Facebook?”

Granted, I really couldn’t care less that a rodent had taken up residence in my friend’s apartment.  But I would have loved nothing more than to join in the banter.

Going out in Beijing is different than New York.  American students flock to similar nightlife venues, making the city seem much smaller.  And it’s refreshing to know a girl I meet hasn’t had an opportunity to scan through my profile pictures, or recently stalk my wall.  Gives me an idea of what the social life of my grandparents must have been like.

Despite my Facebook dependence, the Chinese survive without it.  Sure, some inundate Weibo – often called a Chinese version of Twitter – with updates.  Others bypass the Great Firewall, using VPNs and proxies to access their blocked Western website of choice.

Regardless of their choice of internet access, there is a huge market here for social networking.  Rumors have surfaced that Mark Zuckerberg wants to introduce Facebook to China.  The zeal and fervor at which netizens uncover news stories via Weibo and attempt to keep the corrupt honest is admirable.  Their addition to Facebook would not be merely numbers, but something more—a mass of active, intelligent people who use social networking for social awareness and change, a substantial movement Americans have yet to see.

Rumors about investment interest in Facebook by China’s sovereign wealth fund have also spread recently.  If this is true, it suggests a tone of irony:  Facebook is good enough for the country’s government to invest in, but its citizen’s can’t use it?

A month later, I’m surviving.  Ok, guilty—I used Facebook maybe three times thanks to access via my roommate’s college VPN. But life without Facebook is not the daunting tribulation I thought it was going to be.

This past month, I hiked the Great Wall (it was incredible) and resolved that that was enough.  The Great Firewall was not something to be conquered by me, but should be left up to Chinese netizens to scale.

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Filed under: BusinessChina

soundoff (87 Responses)
  1. chintan

    seems like you have not heard of renren.com,

    July 16, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  2. Diu

    Don't expect the same life overseas as that in your own country. Adaptation is vital when you travel to other country.

    July 16, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  3. lulz

    The reason the Chinese government is looking into investing in Facebook is because they want to CONTROL facebook. They want to try to control the thoughts and ideas of people outside of China so they are just as ignorant about things China does as their own citizens. Ask Chinese people who Ai Weiwei is and they have no idea. That's what China wants.

    On a second note....if you can't live without facebook then your life is just pathetic. Maybe you shouldn't have gone off to China.

    July 16, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  4. WorldIsRoundi

    Who cares? Chinese don't care about their personal freedoms. They are happy with their lives which for us seems limited by government interference. Just like how the Muslims in certain Middle East nations are.

    July 16, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  5. Kit

    Yeah, just go for the VPN. I'm in China for the summer as well, and a VPN just makes it all the more easier. Many young Chinese use their VPNs to access Facebook too, as you mentioned.

    July 16, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  6. Kaijun

    We use Chinese version facebook called "renren" and everyone around me is using it. There is no need of facebook indeed. And I don't like the look of facebook.

    July 16, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  7. nick in china

    The Great Firewall only exists to those who don't know about VPN's yet. Just download the most recent version of Freegate (自由门)on Baidu. There are other VPN's as well. No need to suffer! :-)

    July 16, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
  8. Bob

    That's a pity chinese can't surf the WORLD internet. The Chinese gov is building the world's biggest LAN.

    July 16, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  9. Ben

    "Rumors have surfaced that Mark Zuckerberg wants to introduce Facebook to China."

    Should be "re-introduce" since Facebook was available without any problems until July of 2009.

    July 16, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
  10. huanhu

    In fact most people in China don't rely on Facebook so much. There are 2 social networks in China already, Kaixin and Renren, both have more than 100M registered IDs. At first they are just copycat of Facebook, Now they start to be more unique. If you don have a lot of foreigner friends, it really dones not matter you are using a network called facebook or assbook:)
    For the Great firewall in China, I don't like it too. But educated people always have ways to access to most things they want to know, thanks to internet though. The problem is most people don't want to know, or think they can know everything from mass media. This happened both in U.S. and in China.

    July 16, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  11. ani

    chinese netizens and citizens is the same thing and you know that too dont you? you dont care about chinese, youre american, and life goes on for you, you insensitive prick. i pity myself. i guess youll have the last laugh again eh/

    July 16, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
  12. Thanos Condylis

    I have been in China for 12 years. Married with a daughter. Facebook was good as long as it lasted before it was blocked to communicate with my sons in England, Singapore and Aussie, Parents in Greece but we survived without it. Thanks to Skype. I hope that is not shut.

    July 16, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
  13. Kim

    I lived in China for three years. Over that time, I discovered some really weird stuff. Some of the things the "Great Firewall" blocks are really strange... while other things, which I THOUGHT were blocked by the Great Firewall, turned out to be blocked on the OTHER side... not by governments, but by ISPs!

    That is, there have been so many problems in China with unsecured e-mail servers that spam was and probably is prolific. At least at that time, a lot of spam came out of China and hit the U.S. because Chinese netizens seemed to come in two categories: 1) brilliant experts (very small group) and 2) woefully ignorant (the vast majority). Zombied networks were dirt common. My friend made the mistake of hooking his computer up to his apartment complex's LAN without putting a software firewall or a router with a hardware firewall on it. What a mess that was!

    What this meant was that some U.S. ISPs simply said "to heck with it" and just blocked large IP ranges. While I can understand why, I wonder if Voice of America's web site is still unreachable from many major Chinese cities? Chinese people I met assumed either the U.S. government or the Chinese government didn't want them looking at VOA! A little digging revealed that it was VOA's ISP (at that time) that BLOCKED our city's IP ranges, probably because of spam problems in the past. I wonder how many people have made judgement calls about governments based on what businesses are or were doing...


    Well, everyone wants and doesn't want a truly open Internet. There's good and bad with all of it.

    July 16, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  14. River Steuter

    What a terrible pity and loss you were born into a generation who can’t disconnect. Some 30 years ago when I was a teen and tween, I remember travelling to Egypt and other such distant places where minute-to-minute updates and communications were impossible. Something truly special happened to me on those trips that can’t be replicated by any other means, namely insight. This only happens by disconnecting from one’s life. It takes about three weeks for the effect to happen and it’s essential to be out of touch from family, friends, lovers, neighbours, classmates, and colleagues. You reach the eye of the storm of your life and gain a clarity and understanding that is not possible when you are caught up in its currents and flows. Suddenly new perceptions rise to the surface and old illusions are shattered as routines are broken. Those moments in life were amongst the most profound and valuable I have ever experienced.

    Now I see students and interns such as yourself who moments after landing in a foreign country are desperate to rush and plug in connecting back home to one’s life and past. Excessive communication gives no one the time to actually observe, digest, and reflect when the onus is to merely blabber away at superficiality and respond to others. No one actually leaves home anymore as travelling has become about as meaningful as watching a 24-minute television program.

    Well perhaps this trip to China will be different for you and I assure you it’s a blessing in disguise if you put aside your voracious need for communication with people back home. Start your fast by tossing away the cell phone, or at least relegating it to the bottom of your suitcase during your stay and avoiding the Internet. I urge you to use this time to taste the present, the people around you, and the new experiences that such an opportunity can bring you. By taking a break from the past, you might be surprised at just what room you create for the present and future and the realizations that will come when your mind isn’t fogged by all the mindless chatter and twitter. Best of luck!

    July 16, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  15. Kyle H. Davis

    Ummmm.... and the news here is?

    As for social networking in China, they have it in spades. RenRen, QQ, Sina... People give out QQ numbers along with their mobile numbers.

    The Great Firewall is nothing more than an annoyance to most of us who have come to China from an open society. But the results of it on the population of China are staggering. I'm glad to see that there is a growing number of informed youth in China, but their numbers, and what they can do with that information, are quite limited.

    July 16, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
  16. That'snotTrue:[

    ......Ummmm I've been to China, you can use facebook there, this is mis-informitive. I've used it in an internet bar,
    &&& Facebook isn't that important, it's just one of many social networks, in China there's qq and other social networks too....
    Typical CNN bias.

    July 16, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  17. Andrew

    "Despite my Facebook dependence, the Chinese survive without it. Sure, some inundate Weibo – often called a Chinese version of Twitter – with updates."

    Your "article" misses the reason China survives without Facebook – Renren.com a.k.a. the Chinese equivalent of Facebook. Renren (formerly xiaonei.com) started off as a complete knock-off of Facebook, and it has since IPO'd while Facebook has not. China survives without Facebook because it has a locally-tailored substitute. Please do more thorough research (i.e. talk to a Chinese internet user your age) before guessing in print about the Chinese internet.

    Some? How many? China's internet user population alone is larger than the US. How about a comparison? Did you check?

    "If this is true, it suggests a tone of irony: Facebook is good enough for the country’s government to invest in, but its citizen’s can’t use it?"

    On your way to talking to a real Chinese person, please also talk to a real proofreader. Come on CNN, interns don't know any better but your proofreaders should.

    July 16, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  18. Saoirseq

    Just like the Manchurians before...it is not hard to get through the wall if you know how to get through it. It isn't rocket science and this article blows it way out of porportion. Btw the program like twitter is fan fan.There is aslo QQ and Ren Ren..which the article completely ignores. What question I would ask this would be journalist is how does China grow their internet businesses if Titans like facebook control the market.Itwas not till GOOGLE+ came around that a possible challanger to facebook in the western world came into existance. My space is a joke...many people abandoned that long ago.

    July 16, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
  19. expat disease

    such expat garbage. why don't you actually try to localize? the Chinese internet is a whole different animal and while it's censored, the government can't get them all, and what people say is so funny and interesting. too bad expats don't have the proper language skills to ever understand.

    July 16, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
  20. BB

    No Facebook? Doesn't sound like such a bad thing. It's amazing how every company seems to suck up to that company and plaster its logo and such all over their materials.

    July 16, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
  21. Volodymyr

    Hello there! I would like join go to Internet for facebook.... I love facebook chatting comment's with talking a friend from the World have got to acquainted with for party good all....
    Like most American college students, I am addicted to my Blackberry: the convenience at sending an e-mail on the go, keeping in touch with my family, and always being in-the-know, thanks to often pointless yet seemingly vital Facebook notifications. I could not fathom blocked internet access.
    American students flock to similar nightlife venues, making the city seem much smaller. And it’s refreshing to know a girl I meet hasn’t had an opportunity to scan through my profile pictures, or recently stalk my wall. Gives me an idea of what the social life of my grandparents must have been like.

    Good facebook!

    July 16, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
  22. dorobou

    salute to you sir. Life without facebook is a normal and personal life. Life with facebook is a personal odyssey that you want other to see, which to me is quite meaningless.

    July 16, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
  23. dfairley

    This is not a news worthy story. To read someone lament on difficulties in the absence of Facebook...Please! Its only Facebook. Try unplugging and actually speaking with people. What a waste of time.

    July 16, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
  24. paul

    Why dont you use Chinese facebook, it looks and works just like facebook, and is actually a 100% copy down to the blue facebook color. They even have that farming game. Maybe while in China, speak to someone who is Chinese and get hooked up, dont just hang around at American hot spots. Also, a friend of mine works in China for an EU company, and uses normal Facebook. The firewall in China is horrible and everyone in China hates it, but it has greater effects to society than your ability to hook up with a girl. As the saying goes: When in Rome, use Chinese Facebook.

    July 16, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
  25. Ken

    If you truly can't "live" without Facebook, it sounds like a problem that you should try to get over. Drugs are going to be rough.

    July 16, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
  26. paul

    Also the Chinese facebook just had an IPO on Wallstreet. Mark Zuck, will have no chance now as the Chinese gov will project the Chinese company. However, he did the right thing in not allowing the gov to monitor all posts in the first place. Although the NSA in America, under the patriot act, monitors all online activity in the same manner.

    July 16, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
  27. China

    who needs facebook?
    there is kaixin001, there is renren etc.
    each is better facebook in China.

    July 16, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
  28. Echizen

    What exactly was the point of this article?

    July 16, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
  29. MarkS

    And if China 'hosts' hackers that invade our computers and steal data, Facebook will not be the only thing they are missing. The US Government should pull the plug on all internet for China if it's found that China has hackers who are spawning viruses.

    The US spends billions to 'libertize the oppressed for freedom and Democracy' all around the world. If people are oppressed by hackers, a simple and cheap way to libertize the rest of the world from oppression is to just pull the plug.... for China and any other country who knowingly or unknowingly does the same.

    Background- The Internet was started by the US military- DARPA, I believe is the name. As far as I know, we still run the central computers for it, and effectively host the entire world on them.

    July 17, 2011 at 2:51 am |
  30. sb

    Who is this moron who wrote this story? China has multiple social networking offers that rival Facebook. They're china focused and have user #'s that are close to that of Facebook, but all are just from one country: China!
    You should go back to U.S, you're too dumb to live overseas and give a bad name to us expats!

    July 17, 2011 at 3:23 am |
  31. T

    If you want to use Facebook in China it is very simple. Just log on via a VPN. Just like every one does in China who uses Facebook. Did the person who wrote the article actually go to China or was it based upon something he read?

    July 17, 2011 at 3:46 am |
  32. Shawn

    I'm a Chinese. I do not like the idea of Great Fire Wall as it fences out lots of websites I like brawsing when I am not in China.
    However, I just want to clarify that instead of facebook, we have Renren; instead of Youtube, we have Youku, etc....and this article is kind of biased.

    July 17, 2011 at 3:53 am |
  33. PK from Singapore

    May I know what is the point of this article? Why is this on CNN?

    July 17, 2011 at 4:56 am |
  34. Just say "No" to drugs

    Facebook is like dope. You're better off without it.

    July 17, 2011 at 5:13 am |
  35. Joe Edge

    Lorenzo doesn't know much about China, and therefore is filled with lots of fear and apprehension – some substantiated, some not... The powers that be, in China, don't want the bulk of the Chinese to start pointing out corruption, and reporting news and events. If they did they would have less control over the chaos that would ensue... and it would ensue. The Chinese people are not afraid of the government, as many suspect. When they see corruption they are not afraid to call people out, and that's what the government fears most. Therefore, getting a really 'free and open' Facebook type operation would not be easy

    July 17, 2011 at 5:13 am |
  36. Obamo

    Facebook is a bit dum anyways... A waste of time basically; it only benefits the electronic industry. I have learned "zero" from Facebook except that I have much better things to do with my time.
    Wikipedia is a thousand times more useful.

    July 17, 2011 at 5:18 am |
  37. Manuel

    Great story, had a similar experience on my last visit and using VpnAccounts.com service I too was able to bypass the china firewall

    July 17, 2011 at 5:43 am |
  38. Ben

    Not sure why the firewall should be intimidating to any foreigner. I visited China for 3.5 months - going pretty much everywhere. Hang out at any hostel that caters to foreign backpackers - you'll find a sticker on almost every terminal giving you an address to go to and paste in your desired destination (Facebook, Tibetan info, etc., etc.). Access is rarely if ever a problem. And yes, VPN is another option, although more cumbersome for the shorter-term traveler.

    The people who feel "intimidated" by China are the ones who have never been there, but get their "understanding" of the country via CNN. Not good. Factual reporting? Mostly yes. But almost always the wrong PERSPECTIVE about pretty anything and everything about China. Why? A combination of very narrow and often sensationalized CNN style reporting.

    So, everyone going to China for the first time: ignore pretty much everything you get from CNN - and just keep an open mind. Then build up your own firsthand experience and appreciate the good, the bad, and the ugly that China has to offer.

    July 17, 2011 at 5:48 am |
  39. iklindo

    uhm... Write another story like this after 10 years or a life of living behind that wall. Let's see how much you like it then. Knowing you're going to be back on the other side of that firewall one day makes being blocked by it no miserable. Get stuck in that life and I'm sure you would have a different opinion.

    It's one thing to shun the convenience or bane, it's quite another to have it kept from you...

    July 17, 2011 at 6:28 am |
  40. Frosty

    I lived in China (beijing ) 5 years i've never ben facebook addicted so the facebook problem wasn't that big issue for me.
    I agree with you that all this free of speech related issues has to be resolved by the chinese themselves...if they want to (here i really have some doubts).
    What i found tiring living in 5 years is that you are forced to chose not to use every web-site they block...as said before, facebook itself wasn't a big deal for me but all "the package" together is quite a heavy burden: no facebook, no youtube, sometime google won't work, the same for gmail, i was never able to watch a single video from CNN and so on....

    July 17, 2011 at 7:51 am |
  41. ForestSound

    US, keep the Arctic. Have a good time with Russians and your Canadians. The Pacific belongs to China.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:58 am |
  42. ForestSound

    I hope you'll find my comment humorous. Anyone writing a sci-fi novel?

    July 17, 2011 at 8:00 am |
  43. ForestSound

    America, you need a bit more purpose-oriented, disciplined, patriotic but less-greedy manly male population. Don't you think?

    July 17, 2011 at 8:03 am |
  44. ForestSound

    It's boring here since there are no English comments written by the Chinese. (Yawn) Theirs are always the funniest.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:08 am |
  45. ForestSound

    What will happen if methane gas get released in amount by digging out the Arctic? I hope governments are listening to some scientists...

    July 17, 2011 at 8:10 am |
  46. Han Chueh

    How can you do an article on China without Facebook without talking about it's largest social network: RenRen.com, which is modeled (in a way pirated and plagiarized) after Facebook?

    July 17, 2011 at 8:40 am |
  47. pravin

    this is one amazing blog.... havent been to china... but prospect of going there always excites me... to live widout my addictive fb posts is surely an exciting task in hand....

    July 17, 2011 at 9:11 am |
  48. uzairumair

    Worthless opinion of a college kid in a foreign country. Why is this on cnn???

    July 17, 2011 at 9:45 am |
  49. 皓月淡风

    yeah,so called the government blocks our way to truth.And gives it's people so called human right

    July 17, 2011 at 9:50 am |
  50. Ed

    I have to say that the author of this story is a very sad individual... is facebook and twitter that important in one's life that it causes them panic when they think about not being able to use it? what a sad civilization we have become.. I have found that Facebook and Twitter (when used properly) can help us reconnect and socialize, however – its has become more of a tool for those facebook addicts to live through the people who are actually living.. it's a tool to amp up drama in people's lives and like everything else – has become an addiction.. i guess the next thing we will see are recovery centers for facebook addicts and it will become something else for the tax payers to have to pay for so some lazy person can sit on their butt and collect a check...

    July 17, 2011 at 9:56 am |
  51. Experienced Americaner in Beijing


    First off, Chinese people don't need Facebook. They have PLENTY of their own social media. Think of QQ by parent company Tencent, they make more money than facebook ever will. Even if Mark Zuckerberg and his stupid possy were to introduce facebook to China through Baidu, I doubt people will jump ship, I mean why jump ship after all when Sina blogs, QQ and other wealth of social media can satisfy their needs.

    Second, by nightlife venues I'm guessing you're heading to places like Wudaokou and Sanlitun. Have you tried Houhai yet? There are also plenty of exquisite bars all around the city. Even for nightlife, Beijing makes New York seem like a little booger.

    Also, maybe perhaps instead of worrying about writing blogs for CNN and about the so-called "firewall", how about you spend more of your time studying Chinese? Once you know the language, there is so much more to do that you just cannot be bothered with stupid American preconceptions. I still find it such a limiting experience for my non-Chinese speaking friends. You can't savor a country as much if you cannot speak the local language. It's the same for Japan and Korea.

    One of the best ways to get well acquainted with the language is not only from books, but going out more. Try "da jia dao" with more local Chinese people (that means interacting). Go invite some Chinese friends for drinks. Pre-game with them before you hit the clubs. Ask them to take you to really local restaurants that you'll be the only "laowai"(foreigner) showing up. In China, it's all about "guan xi" and "ren mai", even more so in Beijing, so you cannot fully understand and appreciate the culture without doing that.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:56 am |
  52. ice-snow

    I am a Chinese.Iam proude of my country.We like what we use.We like our's lifeway.we can live without your things.But we will do our best to make our life better.

    July 17, 2011 at 11:46 am |
  53. Busybee

    I live in the West, I started Facebook many years ago but never have time to follow the social life in my Facebook and I felt quite bad as people's birth day forgotten, didnot reply so and so and etc.,..

    I can live without Face book and many of my friends donot need or like to use Facebook simply just WE HAVE MORE OTHER THINGS TO DO IN OUR CITY AND COUNTRY LIFE WE ARE FULL OF LIFE AND LAUGHTER INVOLVING many charity works and arts and cultures, natures, eco business etc etc.... ...

    July 17, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
  54. Nacho

    While I don't advocate their government restrictions on internet use, it poses the question as to whether they may actually be better off without social media. Recently giving up Facebook has brought me to the realization that I am surely better off without it and the ridiculous obligations inherent to it.

    July 17, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  55. usapanda

    Strangely, AOL software allow you to 'bypass' the Chinese firewall. :)

    July 17, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  56. Nelco

    This article is of no interest whatsoever. What a childish way of writing! Plus it is totally innacurate.

    July 17, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  57. Me

    Gotta love the Chinese. So smart yet so dumb.

    July 17, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  58. JG

    Pretty sad that this article actually made it to the front page of cnn.com. Seriously. What the hell did you think life was BEFORE facebook, you addict!?

    July 17, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  59. Kyle H. Davis

    Ummm... so... CNN is just deleting comments for no reason? Let's try this again:

    No new news here. However, the idea that China is in some need of social networking is a little off the mark. China has a solid social network industry of their own. That's the problem with this report: It is simply viewing things from the western perspective.

    QQ / Sina / RenRen... Sure they have a "Chinese version" of Twitter... it is China, after all.

    The GFW is nothing more than a minor hindrance for those of us from open societies, but it is a major problem for Chinese overall – Not because they don't know how, but because they lack the reason to try (most often).

    July 17, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  60. L. Casurkis

    I just spent a year in China and unfortunately you don't quite understand Facebook's role in China.

    Facebook was previously accessible in China and many Chinese citizens had accounts. However, about two years, ago, the government blocked the site and people either used VPNs to get around the firewall or just abandoned their accounts.

    Since then, a Chinese version of Facebook–essentially Facebook with Chinese characteristics–has emerged, called Ren Ren Wang (人人网)。 It is the exact same model as Facebook and is accessible within China. As more people get on Ren Ren Wang and leave Facebook, there is little to no interest for Chinese people to use Facebook. (i.e. If you don't have any friends on Facebook, you yourself have no reason to be there, either).

    While perhaps the expats in China aren't looking up your Facebook profile, many Chinese college students do look up their friends' ren ren wang pages. Facebook has very little future prospects in China.

    Check out the Chinese site here: http://www.renren.com You will notice it looks a lot like Facebook.

    July 17, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  61. Neil Cassidy

    All the seasoned expat writers in China today, and this is the best that CNN can come up with? Shallow stuff, indeed.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
  62. Spendlove

    "But life without Facebook is not the daunting tribulation I thought it was going to be." Duh

    July 17, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
  63. Christian Burgess

    thanks for sharing ... care factor 0

    July 17, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
  64. mitchell wilson

    Seriously?!? i'm 24 without a cell and facebook and always know whats going on... maybe i don't know who's underwear is brown but i don t really care about those thing

    July 17, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
  65. Jason


    July 17, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
  66. Samuraishonan(dot)blogspot(dot)com

    Nice article. I am glad you know about VPN. The paid service is always better than the free. hidemyass vpn is excellent. I do not know if they will let you get to that site, but next time state side, sign up and register and you will be able to use it all the time.
    I am not a face book person by the way. Skype is good enough for family and friends. I do not need cyber friends.

    Study hard.

    July 17, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
  67. nedyfe

    This is beautiful!

    July 18, 2011 at 12:33 am |
  68. Ed

    The Chinese should praise their government for kicking out Facadebook. It's an immature life for those who will continue to have no life.

    July 18, 2011 at 1:05 am |
  69. laowei

    Chinese have their own facebook called RenRen and many other social networking websites. Do your research dude!!
    or write an article once you have lived there for at least 5 years so you understand what is going on

    July 18, 2011 at 1:36 am |
  70. G.O, Osho-Davies

    Is it only me? But as a foreigner in China, each time I go to an Internet bar, all I see are young men and women busy playing shooting games and watching movies, which truly explains the Chinese word for surfing the Internet, "Shan wan", "Climbing to play"... I hardly see people read even Chisese news let alone visit the western sites that are not banned

    July 18, 2011 at 1:36 am |
  71. Lorson

    I am a Chinese netizen. I do suffer a lot from our country's internet block. I can't even watch CNN videos online. But I don't think this kind of firewall is all unnecessary. How should the government deal with the situation which some netizens may do sth that damage the peace and harmony of our country just because they overcome the firewall and are showed with some wrong or false information? I do agree that we are born to have the right to use the Internet freely, but what about the situation I listed above.

    July 18, 2011 at 2:58 am |
  72. chinanon

    "Clueless American student had to make minor adjustments to his life when moving to the other side of the world."

    How profound. You're living in Beijing, the capital of a country that is undergoing massive social, moral and economic change and you write about how you miss Facebook. And somehow this is relevant enough that it warrants a page on CNN's business blog.

    Decline of an empire indeed.

    July 18, 2011 at 4:05 am |
  73. naive

    "Clueless American student had to make minor adjustments to his life when moving to the other side of the world."

    Agreed and outdated. These sites have been blocked for a long time now. If you can't get used to it then too bad. It's sad to see people rely on one networking site. You have skype, USE it instead of complaining you cant see this notification and that notification on facebook. It's just like little kids nowadays owning ipads, you take it away and they cry or whine. College student? I wouldnt be surprised if you were some middle school kid.

    July 18, 2011 at 7:56 am |
  74. Steev

    Only when there is such a massive firewall can a poor site such as Renren or Baidu exist. Since I travel to China often and have set up both, I find it annoying to have to use Renren or Baidu. The worst is the lack of linkages to other countries. Why have one for each country? Facebook can speak many languages, so does Google. That is the way of the future. Secondly, both sites are just poor copies. Baidu does not have the same capabilities for information search that Google has (and on top it filters a huge amount of data out of the search) and Renren makes it sometimes very hard to post something that could be anti-government. Posting a link to an article on the rumors of Jiang Zemin's death was not as easy as I thought. Moreover, censors monitor the network for any oppositional viewpoints. Technically the site also lacks features that Facebook already has.
    It is really sad, that the Chinese government does not want its people to link with the world!!!

    July 18, 2011 at 8:59 am |
  75. Osis

    facebook is nothing more than the evil stamp on everyone which the Bible is talking about. It is also confusing as heck! Who cares that the Chinese are not using it? So now everyone has to use it? Why? Because Zukerberg created it?

    July 18, 2011 at 9:41 am |
  76. i2

    reading comments seems to always make my mornings more amusing. there seems to be so many creative ways to display stupidity. facebook is a website...its not the antichrist nor representative of someone pissing in your coffee. its a means to communicate. its popular, get over it. to the people in china, yes its banned (derp), but yes you can bypass it via vpn. my friends in china still use it to keep in touch with the rest of us, and i used it too when i was there. to the people in china saying use renren or some other facebook knockoff...one, its endemic of a larger problem within china, the disconnect from the web the rest of the world uses. and two, for those the article is directed towards, renren is fairly useless for them to communicate with their friends/family outside of china.

    July 18, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
  77. RLLN

    What is wrong with trying to keep in touch with Family and Friends on facebook when your in a foreign country and your loved ones don't have accounts in that Countries social media network. This articles seems to point out just one aspect of someones life not every aspect of ones life!!!!! The great firewall exist, to which the Chinese are accustom to and are able to navigate around it. In America we have the privileage/freedom not to deal with it.

    July 18, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  78. Jordan

    How original.

    What's surprising about this article is that there're so many things happening here in China, petitioners setting themselves on fire, human rights lawyers and activists getting arrested, yet the author managed to neglect all but Facebook. The city appears small when you only see what's made available to you. It's easy to ignore all the other lives in China while drinking in a bar packed with expats or wondering if a girl could cyberstalk you on Facebook.

    Everybody hates the GFW, while it seems pointless to read ANOTHER article complaining about it. CNN might need to put on something more creative, instead of these "I traveled to China and discovered the horrifying GFW" old stories. Come on, are we still in 2009?

    FYI, you might find it satisfying that Fang Binxing, "Father of the Great Firewall," had shoes and eggs thrown at him while giving a lecture in Wuhan a couple of months ago.

    July 18, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
  79. Jordan

    To G.O, Osho-Davies,

    "which truly explains the Chinese word for surfing the Internet, 'Shan wan', 'Climbing to play'..."

    The Chinese word is "Shang Wang," which means "to get on the Web" and has nothing to do with "climbing to play." Yes, many young Chinese are obsessed with online games, and a lot of them play in Internet bars, so it's highly predictable that you would see them every time you go there. But before interpreting this as some deeper social phenomenon, you might want to improve your Chinese a bit.

    "I hardly see people read even Chisese news let alone visit the western sites that are not banned"

    You have probably bumped into the wrong crowd (again, little to expect from an Internet bar), but rest assured, Chinese people do read news. (In 2009, China's total newspaper circulation was 109 million a day, with an average increase of 10.4% during the previous five years, according to The Economist.)

    July 18, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
  80. lrdcq

    Chinese who can get here can jump out from the GFW , however , the great firewall can't stop us.

    July 20, 2011 at 10:40 am |
  81. CD

    You could easily have prepared for working around the firewall in China before you ever left the United States.
    A VPN will solve any internet access problems (such as facebook), and it is quite easy to use your blackberry in China as well, provided you do the research.

    Many foreigners and native Chinese citizens alike have regular acess to facebook and similar blocked websites; it is disappointing to see such misinformation in this article.

    August 8, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  82. Chris J


    People replying are really missing the point. It doesn't matter how many social networking sites China has, all that matters to the writer is THEY DON'T HAVE THE ONE ALL OF HER FRIENDS AND RELATIVES ARE ON, Facebook.

    The point of social media sites is to keep in touch, why do you act like that's a bad thing? Now she can't and she's in a foreign country. That makes things in rougher.

    I would definitely do a VPN in this case.

    November 23, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  83. Angie

    I use http://www.highspeedvpn.com/ to get on Facebook when in China. It`s pretty fast and not so expensive ..

    January 23, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  84. facebook like

    Wow, superb weblog structure! How long have you ever been blogging for? you make blogging look easy. The full look of your web site is excellent, as smartly as the content material!

    April 1, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
  85. Dan

    The truth is you really need a VPN if you stay in China for more than a couple of days, most good sites are blocked there. The block on Facebook is the most annoying one, and also my gMail account didn`t work every time (without VPN I mean).Anyway, I used http://www.sunvpn.com/ while there, worked like a charm every time.

    October 30, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
  86. Chen

    Unfortunately when you are in China you need a way for access blocked website like facebook gmail etc. I myself use http://www.novelvpn.com services and i'm satisfied with them, great price and support !

    September 10, 2013 at 5:01 pm |

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