Internet access in China
It was difficult getting internet access in China a mere 6 years ago. Corporate leased line were difficult to apply for, hotels had no internet access, dial-ups were extremely unreliable, xDSL or cable were largely unavailable and cybercafes largely denied foreigners access.
Today, China is one of the easiest country in the Asia to make internet accessible to businesses, homes, travellers and students.
If you are a business traveller or tourist, you will be pleasantly surprised that almost all hotels, down to 3 stars hotels, even in more remote cities offer broadband internet access in their hotel rooms. Most rooms will have an ethernet port for you to hook up to the hotel's broadband. Access is mostly automatically DHCP with dynamic IPs but in certain hotels, you may need to call the reception to allow access from your room.
You can also visit a cybercafe or 'wang ba' as they are known in China. Cybercafes are everywhere in China and can be a dingy 5 computer setup to large cybercafes with hundreds and hundreds of computers. Most cybercafes in China are patronized by young people whose sole purpose are computer games or online-chatting. These youngsters can spend days in the cybercafes without going home. If you find them too noisy for your liking, you can even request for a private VIP room to surf in peace and comfort!
As a foreigner, you will need to show your passport before you can be allowed access to a cybercafe. In many provinces, the local law requires your picture to be taken and your particulars submitted to a central database. The cybercafes are pretty strict about this or they are liable to have their operating licences taken away. Cybercafes are lucrative businesses in China and you can be sure that they implement the required laws most strictly!
One of the problem that you may face in a public cybercafe is that all the log-in procedures and computer operating systems will only be in Chinese even in the touristy areas. Hence, you will need the cybercafe operator assistance before you can eventually start answering all your Hotmails and Gmails.
If you like visiting coffee cafes, you will also find that many of the newer cafes offer internet points for you to plug in your laptop. Most of the time, usage is free. At this point of time, wireless internet access does not seem to be entirely popular as compared to wire access in these cafes.
If you are running a business, getting a corporate lease line or xDSL broadband is a breeze with very competitive ISP fighting for your business. Monthly charges are low and access speed is decent. In fact, many newer office buildings offer broadband access as part of the rental deal and you need not apply separately to the ISP.
Home users are well taken care of as well. Many new apartment also comes with broadband access or you can apply to the ISPs directly. Charges for monthly sDSL broadband can be as low as US12.
Control of the internet
China is one of the countries with strict internet laws. Having said that, internet usage in China is very, very high for both business and social use. Because personal computers are still expensive by China's income standard, most people access the internet from cybercafes or from offices.
All websites hosted in China needs to be a approved by a government unit. One of the first thing you will notice in China is that domestic sites are blazingly fast but foreign hosted sites tend to be very slow. This is due to foreign sites having to go through a proxy as well as a bottleneck on China's limited conduit out to the international internet pipes.
Many foreign sites such as CNN, Falungong, Playboy and other sites deem sensitive to China's society are blocked.
Web applications and development in China are often of a high standard. Many domestic sites such as Alibaba and Sohu has made it to the very competitive top internet arenas. Many web development companies from Taiwan, South Korea and even the USA has also made China their development base for their web applications as China offers a large pool of competitive and high qualified web developers.