How to Use Social Networks in China Despite the Massive Internet Censorship


When I was returning home from a Hong Kong trip last year, I had to transfer via Beijing. The layover time at the Beijing airport was around 19 hours, and if you’ve never been to any Chinese airport trust me, you don’t want to spend more than few hours there.

The good news was that I - as a Slovak citizen - could get 72 hours transit visa to Bejing for free. So I did. I booked a hotel through an excellent Chinese booking service, and I was all set. The bad news came soon after I checked-in the hotel room when I realized I can’t access my Facebook nor any other social network I use.

Surely China is a beautiful country and a great place to visit, but there are certain things you might find unpleasant and in my case it wasn’t farting and spitting on the streets, but the fascist internet censorship by the Chinese government.

If you are a "social networking addict" like me, you may find it hard to survive without facebook, twitter and many others which the government doesn’t want their citizens to use. Of course, Chinese people have found tons of ways to get rid of the censorship, but for you as a traveler, using a VPN service which is the most common solution, might not be the best choice after all. One of the drawbacks that can keep you from using VPN is its price. The best services are usually pricey and even if you find a free VPN service, it might be so slow that will make your social networking experience useless.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to use the hotel’s computer as I carried my iPad with me. I remembered I was experimenting with an application called Flipboard a long time ago and left it installed even though I’ve never used it too much. It’s a content aggregator for major social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr and even YouTube. So I gave it a try and as you’ve already realized I could access all of the social networks mentioned above because Flipboard acts as a proxy server. They probably push all the content through their servers which bypass the "not so Great Firewall of China".

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Just connect to your favorite social accounts using your login information and you’re done. The best from all you can use Flipboard on all major mobile operating systems like iOS, Android, and even Windows Phone or BlackBerry.

Though Flipboard solves the issue with the Chinese censorship, I’m not sure if you can access your app store from China so make sure to install it before you visit the country. Otherwise, you might end up using their Facebook clone which is probably going to be useless for you unless you can read Chinese.

Did you use a VPN on your trip to China or did you come up with any other solution? Please let everybody know in the comments.

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