This morning I was in a bad mood. I had just received word that China had announced that it would be blocking voip services like Skype. I’m not sure if you are familiar with Skype, but for expats like me it serves as the lifeline. If I want to call my parents, or see my niece and nephew, or talk to pretty much anyone, I use Skype.
As you may know from every news source you’ve ever read, I live in a country where freedom of speech and privacy are not protected in any way. So when I told my friend Tim this morning that the govt. was trying to spy on my information, he just said “well duh.”
Then it struck me, how is it that after four years in China I’m still surprised when things like this happen?
The reality is that in my daily life the government doesn’t really show up, at all. If I didn’t read the People’s Daily, I wouldn’t even really know that the Central Govt. existed. I only deal with them once or twice a year when I renew my visa, and change my residence permit.
As you’ve been able to tell from my blog there is actually quite a bit more freedom than we might expect here, since I’m able to post all of this from the other side of the great firewall. To my wife’s chagrin I rarely back away from talking openly with friends, students, and co-workers about many of the problems facing China. My good Chinese friends, Seven and Henry, have had some excellent discussions about almost all of the taboo topics without secret police kicking in the door.
So when they actually do something that has an impact on my daily activities, it reminds me of all the ways in which the country that I want nothing but the best for, falls so short of what it could be. Soon we’ll be adding yet another site to the list of blocked web pages that already includes youtube, facebook, twitter, IMDB (really not sure why on this one) and even the one you are currently reading. Those have all been blocked since the start of 2008. So my big wish for 2011 is that a year from now I’ll be living in a China with even just a touch more freedom.
Update: China appears to have changed it’s mind on the Skype issue. I couldn’t be happier