After spending most of the week in China, there's something I expected but grossly underestimated. It's really hard to work here if you're accustomed to the freedom and openness we enjoy in Australia. It's almost impossible to work with the tools I rely on and I've had to make some concessions I really wanted to avoid just to get things done.
China's record for ensuring no "dodgy content" hits the eyeballs of its citizens is well known. But what's more frustrating is that things work some of the time and then stop at other times.
For example, I seem to be receiving email - I have several google apps accounts - on my laptop without any problem but sending has suddenly stopped working. Yesterday, email was totally borked. DuckDuckGo hasn't worked for search since I arrived but Google worked until yesterday. Today, I can only use Bing via Edge.
News websites are a crap shoot. I can sometimes get to my local papers from home but not at other times. Although I suspect the civil unrest in Hong Kong, where there are protests over changed extradition laws, is influencing the nature of news access. And whenever I visit a site for the first time, it's very slow - like as slow as the old dial up days.
I always use a VPN when I travel but neither of my VPN options have worked while here. I've been using NordVPN for a couple of years and also have Proton VPN but neither connects reliably. And when I do get a connection, things are very slow and everything times out. Speaking to my colleagues in the press room at CES Asia, this seems to be a common experience.
Many of you will be sitting there, nodding sagely and asking what else did I expect. And I was prepared for some inconvenience. Fortunately, I have found workarounds for a couple of the issues I faced and key applications I depend on have remained functional.
But China's position on monitoring and censorship of internet access is a direct contradiction to the rhetoric regarding the trade war with the United States. It's hard to take their claim of the goodness of open markets seriously when people visiting on business can't do everyday things like send email.