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How To Access Facebook In China
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For expats new to the whole china experience, and for Chinese people who have gone abroad and found out about western social network sites, the search continues for a way to access Facebook in china. There are actually a couple of ways to do so, with varying degrees of reliability, cost, and convenience. Though rumors about Facebook coming to China in 2011, this is not completely true. Mark Zuckerberg may be working on deals with Baidu, the Chinese search engine for a social network like Facebook, it is clear that the site will probably have no concrete connection with the Facebook we know outside The Great Firewall.

One way to access Facebook in China that was popular is called a proxy. These are also commonly known as "anonymous proxies" or "rolling proxies". The idea is that you type the blocked URL into the proxy site and they redirect your site request to a server somewhere else in the world. Your Chinese IP address becomes invisible, and you gain the IP of the location of the proxy server. This worked to get on Facebook back in about 2006-2007, and actually, many of these anonymous proxy sites were free. Despite being free, these presented their own problems of inconvenience. You had to access the proxy site and enter the Facebook URL, and very often the free proxies meant that you had to deal with popup advertisements or constant reminders to buy the full version. Many of them limited bandwidth so you couldn't download torrents, stream video, and the connection was very slow. However, you could access Facebook in China, so who can complain.

Most of these have been shut down now, or are still running and under government supervision. The general security of proxies isn't that great, and they're pretty easy to block. You can bet that as soon as the popularity of one starts to grow the government's attention will be caught and it'll be shut down quickly. There are paid proxies to access Facebook in China, but if you're going to pay, you should get something with a bit more security.

What I'm talking about is a VPN. This is what most people who need a reliable connection to bypass Internet censorship are using. VPN's are popular in Iran, UAE, China, Laos, and other countries with very strict Internet censorship rules. VPN's work in a similar way to proxies to get you access to Facebook in China. Your site request is redirected to a server outside Of The Great Firewall so that the Internet censors aren't able to block your IP from a blocked site. VPN's step it up a notch (two notches actually) by both encrypting and tunneling your information. It's like wrapping your data in a package, putting it in a secure tunnel, sending it to a server outside The Great Firewall (all the meanwhile the Chinese Internet censors can't see your information), and only then is your data sent to the site your requested. This method to access Facebook in China has been tried and tested thousands of times (by myself - once or twice a day for four years is a lot) and will definitely work.

China's a bit of a special case here - since the political upheaval in Egypt, China's Internet censors have been on high alert and just a few months ago they blocked something called PPTP and L2TP. That means that many mobile devices like iPad, iPhone, and other smart phones that use VPN's won't be able to connect to the VPN in China. There are ways to get SSL/OpenVPN for these devices, but it's best to ask the VPN service you plan on signing up for first. Not all devices can use SSL (laptops and desktops can). In short, if you're looking to use a desktop or laptop to access Facebook in China, you won't have a problem. If you want to get it on your iPhone or Android, you might run into some issues.

Don't hold your breath for Facebook to come to China. It's much easier with a VPN.


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