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Around the World China

Buying an iPhone in China

Lately it was the time that I had to replace my old PDA with something new because I dropped it one time too much on the floor. Because we had business in Shanghai and found a shop with “original” iPhones we decided to switch to iPhones.

The first question when you buy something like an iPhone in China is: How can you be sure it really is an Apple iPhone and not a chinese clone? First I would suggest to search for some detailled pictures of original iPhones, they are very slim and have a characteristic position and border of the embedded camera. But I think the easiest way to identify an iPhone is the software on the phone. If you make a photo with the phone and scale it with the multi-touch ability of the iPhone the image scales and corrects the image resolution at the same time so that you can hardly see pixels while zooming.

So we went into this shop and in total bought 3 iPhones. The iPhones were neatly packed, seemingly in original, brand new boxes and my test showed that they were real Apple iPhones.

Before I bought the iPhones I didn’t now anything about jailbreaking and unlocking. I just tried my chinese and my german SIM card in the phone and both worked.

Back in the hotel the problems started. I reconfigured my phone and it didn’t work with any SIM card any more. So we went back to the shop and they made it run within 5 min and gave it back to me. While leaving they told me better not to update the software on the phone myself which finally made me really curious and back in the hotel I started an internet research to find out if the iPhones where original ones.

Especially the Apple Service and Repair webpage was very helpful. One of the iPhones was a replacement part without any guarantee, the other two were already several month old. Conclusion we bought refurbished iPhones sold as new ones. When the battery life of the replacement part showed that the battery was already quite old we decided to go back to the shop another time and ask the sellers directly about the fact that they hid that they sold refurbished iPhones.

The result was not really satisfactory. They changed the replacement iPhone with the damaged battery to another one but that was all.

Because one of us was really pissed off, she called the police later to ask them what to do. The police forwarded us to a special unit which deals with these matters and they told us that only China Unicom is allowed to sell iPhones in China and therefore they will do nothing about our case.

After we got this information I finally understood what happend to my iPhone which suddenly didn’t work any more and had a closer look on the installed software. The iPhones were original China Unicom phones which have been jailbreaked and unlocked!

As final resultI can only warn you to be aware that most phones, even in official China Mobile Reseller Shops like the one where we bought our phones, are fakes or refurbished. This puts the price we payed into a complete new perspective!

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Around the World China

Tropical Thunderstorms

When I arrived in Haikou a year ago my only experience with a tropical region has been 6 month on Martinique between my studies in physics and the start of my computer science studies. On Martinique the rainy season is about 3 month and the rest of the year there is more or less sunshine.

The September in Haikou last year has been nice even though it was quite warm with around 38°C. In October the Taifun season began and I can tell you that we got drown in our apartment in the fourth floor. The wind pressed the gigantic amount of water which has been carried along with the Taifun directly through the windows into the apartment. This rainy period continued more or less until mid December. The rest of December and January have been dry but unusual cold, specially because there is no heating in the apartment.

In February it started to rain again. First only sometimes and after a while more and more. Since two month now we have temperatures above 30°C and about one thunderstorm every day. The record has been three thunderstorms in a row during one afternoon. When you are outside in such a storm, there is no protection. When you wear a slicker you are wet from your own sweat, otherwise from the rain. The water in the road can easily raise to a torrent of more than 10cm depth. There is no sewer which can take that much water in such a short time even though the city of Haikou is cleaning them all the time. A gaze through the window shows me grey in grey during such a storm and I can hardly see the neighbour building which is only about 30m away.

I never imagined that on a tropical island like Hainan it could be more rainy than in northern Germany where I come from and which I once left because of the “bad weather”. I think life is really funny and we should enjoy this fact much more ! 😉

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Misc Politics

Serious Security Holes in Green Dam Software discovered

The University of Michigan has analysed the Green Dam – Youth Escort Software which will be istalled on every chinese Computer due to an policy from the Chinese Government.

It is very doubtful that this is in the intentions of the Chinese Government to expose chinese computers security in this way. This can happen only because of the secrecy in which such projects are accomplished in China where no additional control from independant organisations is possible.

If you read the article of the University of Michigan carefully you have to stumble over the following:


We examined the Green Dam software and found that it contains serious security vulnerabilities due to programming errors.

Green Dam makes frequent use of unsafe and outdated programming practices that likely introduce numerous other vulnerabilities.

In my eyes this shows one of the pricipal problems in the chinese software industry. The newest and most up-to-date programming information nowadays is communicated in blogs and wiki’s and spread by services like twitter and RSS Feeds. But these are the most controlled and blocked services and websites in China. For me as computer scientist it is an unsustainable situation when you want to do programming work in China and have to fight for each bit of up-to-date information because programming blogs and websites are blocked and you always have to find a way around to get to the important content. There must be a measurable collateral damage in the software industry in China from this blocking politics.

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Misc Politics

The Green Dam – Youth Escort

As you can read on Rebecca MacKinnon’s blog the chinese Government published a new directive according to which all PC’s sold in China have to come with the pre-installed internet filtering software “Green Dam – Youth Escort” from Jinhui Corp.. The original document can be downloaded at here.

Whereas the Chinese Government insists that the software is only for blocking porn web content and first tests seemed to confirm this statement, detailed analysis uncovered that the Green Dam software also blocks dangerous political content. Additionally it seems that the software sends reports back to Jinhui Corp. which leaves the question open that if the software’s intention is only to secure the youth from unintentional surfing to porn websites, why do they need to send reports about this back to the government? Do they really want to criminalize youth which wants to see sexual content? Or is the intention more to control who wants to inform himself about dangerous political content?

When you listen to our politician all they do seem to be for our best. Why does it always turn out that what they say is completely different from what they intend to do which you find out once you make a detailed analysis about what they are really doing?

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Misc Politics

How China clears his past

Today, twenty years ago a big massacre took place on the Tiananmen place in Beijing to suppress a student riot which was held against corruption in China and for more democratic rights.

Tiananmen Place

The way the chinese government deals with this special day is that since more than a week they block internet communication like blogs, Twitter, YouTube or even Flickr. I believe that if they could, they would erase this date from the calendar. In many countries you can find articles in the newspapers in memory of this day. I the chinese news like CCTV or Xinhua … not a single word.

Even though I think that many of the chinese politicians nowadays think by themselves that the reaction of the government has been too extreme and the massacre should have been avoided, the chinese government has that much fear that things might run out of control that they block everything, from dissidents who have to stay in their homes to the place and the streets around it and finally the internet where we could discuss this event.

In my eyes this shows a very low self-esteem of chinese politicians about their actual politics. Where does this come from? Perhaps they should have done more against the corruption during the last 20 years, which is still a big problem in China today? Or they should have worked harder on a better social system? Perhaps they should simply have more confidence in their people.

I think, at least they should stop to deny Chinas past in the fear that they might loose their faces or that things are leaping out of control.

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Around the World China

Nice to live in China

It is very nice to live in China!

The weather during the last days on Hainan was around 34°C so you don’t have to freeze.

The food is not expensive, even though I have no idea about the quality because it seems not to be controlled who puts what on the plants, into the animals or products.

And I don’t have to fear too much disturbance from the internet. Most of the time I am not able to see pages like wordpress or other blogs, I have no access to my twitter account and confusing political statements about human rights like the ones from anmesty international are by courtesy of the chinese government completely taken out of the internet information stream.

In exchange I am living on a beautiful island in the south of China as can be seen on this picture I found:

The question is: Is it as real as the rest of the living in China?

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Around the World China

One Child Policy Enforcement

I wrote already about the “One Child Policy” in China. What I want to make absolute clear is that this is a policy of the Kommunist Party of China (KPC) and not a chinese law! There is no law in China which forbids families to have more then one child and so nobody can be forced by law to make an abortion when a woman is expecting her second child.

That much to the legal situation. But in China a policy of the KPC is much stronger than any law.

There is the Birth Control Bureau in China which is controlling the compliance of the One Child Policy. This Bureau has its own tactics to force people to obey the One Child Policy. It convinces women who are pregnant with their second Child to make an abortion, even in a state where the unborn child is already considered to be a human being in the western countries.

I just heard about one case where a worker from the Birth Control Bureau said:

This was an easy case, it took me only 20 days of talking to get the agreement for an abortion.

The woman was already high in her seventh month !

In another case the woman insisted in refusing to take an abortion but her younger brother was working for the government so they simply lowered his job until the woman finally agreed with an abortion.

Politicians, Churches and Human Rights Organisation criticize the situation of the human rights in China emphasizing on Tibet or the death penalty of criminals. But where is the lobby for an unknown number of unborn babies which are killed like this every year in China?

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Misc Politics

Chinese Human Rights Action Plan

As the chinese news agency Xinhua reported, yesterday the chinese government published for the first time a human rights action plan for China. During the next 2 years human rights shall be protected and promoted with an focus on:

  • Civil and Political Rights
  • Rights and Interests of Ethnic Minorities
  • Education in Human Rights
  • Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  • Performing International Human Rights Duties

As stated in Spiegel Online, specially the promise of better social benefits would be highly welcome from a vast majority of the population.

It is arguable how many of these good intentions can be realised and in which time frame because it takes a lot of time until a governmental policy in China becomes reality in local government decision making. But for the first time at all the chinese government approved that there might be a need for change in the human rights policies in China.

One of the first things which should be changed is the disparity between countryside and city citizens as explained in Lizhens article about the chinese Hukou. This disparity in my eyes is a shame for an communist country where all brothers should be seen as equal.

[Update]
The full text of the action plan can be found here: National Human Rights Action Plan of China (2009-2010) .

For me as computer scientist I am specially interested to see the implementation of II. Guarantee of Civil and Political Rights, (5) The right to be informed. Will this point cover a less strickt filtering of the internet as well?

As far as the chinese government does not exactly explain what they want to change and how they want to achieve these goals a slight suspiciousness about this program is indicated.

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Around the World China

Guangzhou

I just came back from Guangzhou where I had to go for a week. Guangzhou is a city with about 10.5 mio. habitants and when you arrive there coming from Haikou the impression is that of a very busy and dirty city. There is much more traffic and the air is simply not comparable to the fresh sea air in Haikou.

The pace in Guangzhou is much higher than in Haikou. You can see it when you have a look at the people who are hurring into the Metro or when you see the speed of the cars and busses in the streets. Even in the restaurants I have seen that during a normal lunch which took us about 30 min. on our neighbour table three groups of people have been serverd their lunch during the same time.

But luckily you can feel very safe when you are guarded even by the police during a coffee break at KFC 😉

One thing I really liked in Guangzhou are all the good restaurants. There are plenty of them and in all chinese and even many stranger country styles. Fortunately we didn’t have the time to visit more than two of them per day 😉 There were also some restaurants which offer specialties where I had to pass. For example one famous snake restaurant, … Therefore we found a very small but extremly good goose restaurant and got very big and yummy goose dishes for 25 RMB.

And Guangzhou is ideal for shopping. We have seen shopping malls which were bigger than half of the shopping malls of Haikou together.

Wherever you go in Guangzhou, its crowded. I have been in several big chinese cities but I think Guangzhou is only comparable to Shanghai when it comes to the crowds walking through the streets and shops and if you try to find a table in a restaurant during normal lunch time be prepared that you might wait for some minutes until one becomes free. But as I stated already you don’t have to wait for long 😉

Transportation is always a subject in China. Guangzhou has a very modern and fast Metro which covers already the main directions and is continuously extended. The regions of the city you cannot reach by Metro are very good covered by many bus lines.

Even though the traffic is already full of trucks and small transporters with supply you can still find the more traditional chinese transport systems as well. I had the luck to see this bicycle transporter with empty boxes which even found a solution against the rainy weather.

chinese transportation solution

At last we found an old european quarter. The houses are still more or less in the old european style which I am used to from Germany and old houses are repaired in the same way to conserve the unique style of this little island. We spent a nice an quiet afternoon on the terrace of the Starbucks with a good coffee and many muffins.

On this little island you can find restaurants from Italy and Germany but be prepared for the more european prices as well.

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Misc Politics

China is tightening the Net again

I am living in China, a country very well known for its ability to build the biggest walls in this world. One remarkable example can even be seen from the moon. The other one is not that obvious and quite immaterial.

As computer scientist I am depending a lot on the informations I get over the internet. My whole daily work actually cannot be done without the actual documentations of tools and components I am using.

Living behind the biggest firewall in the world has a big disadvantage for my profession and I believe that this must also have an impact on the chinese software industry. There are many strictly professional sites which are unreachable without additional measures, like www.jruby.org. All blogs which are hosted at www.wordpress.com are unreachable even though I have access to the main page. These pages should be easily reachable for you if you are living in Europe or America.

The normal behaviour is a timeout of the network connection or that the address cannot be found at all. But also some websites are unnaturally slow, actually so slow that you cannot really navigate on them. Many sites can only be reached after several attempts.

Actually it is getting worse in China again. A friend of me even complained about rejected mails to me which were filtered out by there IP address.

On one hand I can understand the discomfort with which most governments see the internet as an anarchical, uncontrollable zone which they are trying to get under constitutional legality but the internet is nothing else than real life. When you want to find a way around the laws you will find it. You don’t need the internet for this. And when you want to get informations you will get them.

Think about the saying: The word is more powerful than the sword!