Just a quick comment on Chinese web-censorship, coming at you from Chengdu in Sichuan province, where it is currently raining pandas and pangolins (local for "cats and dogs").
I just want to add that flickr.com seems to have been added to the list of banned sites. You might ask how I figure this out? Well, I'm sure there are more scientific ways, but when my browser refuses to connect a few times, or from different computers, I try to use one of the anonymous proxies available on the web. If I then manage to connect it means flickr is in fact out there, but not reachable from China. In the process though I also found some of my favourite anonymizers have also been added recently to the Chinese blacklist.
Steve Biko said (and I might have quoted this before): "The greatest weapons in the hands of the oppressor are the minds of the opressed." It has a special relevance in China, where the people almost completely homogenously support almost anything the government does, but not out of some ideological conviction, but out of either complete and utter disinterest or complete and utter apathy. Or, wait, that's kinda the same thing. Or is it?
Certainly a different kind of apathy from the kind we know in the West. This is almost a time-honoured tradition of ignoring or tolerating government as being some very far flung phenomenon that has no influence on daily life whatsoever. The few Chinese people who do seem concerned express a feeling of complete and utter helplessness in the face of their government's and culture's complete and utter monolithicness (copyright: me 2005).
A good name for this post would have been "complete and utter". Truth is if there was an election tomorrow the CCP government would win 100% of the vote, pure and simple. It's a shame really, that the Chinese have been through so much in the 20th Century, and have lost so much, and are completely and utterly unaware of how oppressed they are.
Chengdu is laid-back, leafy, filled with parks and friendly people. Armies of backpackers pass through here, 3 Gorges-bound or tibet-bound or both. Coffee can be had, and at some places even reasonably. English is considered a language with multisyllabic utterences surpassing the two in "hello". Old men approach foreigners in the street and ask questions like: "What's the difference between 'telly' and 'television' because my dictionary doesn't say." There are antiques markets where you can browse at your leisure, drink beer next to the river, and are not bombarded with ridiculous trinkets and loud "looky, looky"'s while doing so. In short a very agreeable place, not at all Western, but a good, polite, cultured Asian.
Tomorrow off to see the pandas at the breeding centre, then to an irrigation project built in 120 AD to divert the Jiang river, and still in use. Returning to Xi'an is going to make a dull, clunking noise.