In Yunnan’s eternal spring, visitors navigate their way around internet controls
Strolling along the sunny, tree-lined sidewalks of Dianchi Lake Resort, in China’s Yunnan Province, I am determined to enjoy as much as possible of this part of Kunming, the provincial capital appropriately known as the City of Eternal Spring. Pursuing a slow pace of life seems a good idea in a province that (with the exception of Kunming’s unsightly urban sprawl) is so picture-postcard perfect it seems a tad unreal.
I am traveling with a party of South Asian reporters, one of whom, a Nepalese, reminds me that we need to hurry: Work awaits, and his articles have to be filed as deadlines loom. The next day, however, he appears less rushed. Work can wait, he says, adding that his Gmail account is not functioning because of the so-called Great Firewall of China, which blocks much international internet traffic.
My Nepalese friend is not alone. Other travelling journalists, having encountered China’s formidable blocks on some popular websites and social media platforms, also decide that they might as well enjoy the Chinese food and scenery, and file their articles when they get home.
A friend from Sri Lanka and I exchange telling glances. When in China, we do things the Chinese way, arriving prepared with local QQmail, which can be set up free of charge, and accounts with WeChat, a social media service. WeChat is popular in Sri Lanka, so we can easily use it to send messages to colleagues at home.