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china
chinese search engines
gmail account
virtual private network
google
freedom of speech
chinese market
Is Gmail Blocked In China?
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Is Gmail blocked in China is a funny question. I keep a blog about China - including my experience, my thoughts, and a list of blocked sites. Gmail is a funny site because it's never really blocked, and it's never really accessible either. Many times when I try to load my Gmail from China, the server claims to be redirected, or I get one of those "server is taking too long to respond" messages. Honestly, sometimes it seems like the time of day affects my Gmail access. In China, you can never be quite sure if it's just bandwidth problems during high traffic periods, throttling done by the Chinese government, viruses on your computer, problems with the Gmail site, or that the site is actually blocked. Since March 2011 I consider Gmail in China to be blocked.

The reason is that once I connect to my VPN, I don't have any problems with accessing my Gmail account. If it were problems with my bandwidth, my ISP, or the Gmail site itself, there wouldn't be much of a difference when I connect to my Gmail account through a VPN. However, whenever I can't access my Gmail, I just connect to the VPN and there's no problem.

If you've never heard of a VPN, it stands for Virtual Private Network. More and more Gmail users are starting to requite a VPN to access their Gmail accounts in China because of this "off and on" blocking by the Chinese government. The relationship between Google and China seems to get worse every year, and everyone is afraid of losing face. If Google gives to China, censors results and moves in for their share of the Chinese market then they've got to back-track what they've said in earlier years about freedom of speech and freedom of the Internet. If China gives in to Google, they've got to explain to 1.6 billion people why it's suddenly ok for Google to bring uncensored search results to China, and Chinese search engines like Baidu can't.

Whatever the politics of it actually are, you can be sure that a multi-billion dollar western business butting heads with the Chinese government isn't going to end well. If you're a Gmail user living or traveling in China, don't expect clean access to Gmail in China for a while. Maybe not ever. Actually, as an expat who's lived in China for many years now, my personal opinion is that Gmail will eventually be fully blocked and the only hope of accessing the site will be through a VPN in China. So get a VPN, or get Yahoo.


Street Talk

I have spent time on and off over the years in Taiwan and can relate to the "saving face" issue and the points you raise. Having just launched a Chinese website the issue of ensuring content and partnerships are ok takes on a new importance. As a westerner I am used to news about cyber attacks "from" China and the problems that causes. Recently our site was taken offline for several hours due to a US based cyber attack on the Chinese based server hosting our website. It is a complicated world! Thanks for the warnings about Gmail.

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  about 9 years ago
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