In the coming period Folia will follow four Chinese students during their first year at the UvA. How is life different here? Today, episode 4: Social media and The Great Firewall.
Yigong Zhang (23, master Film Preservation)
‘Google Maps doesn’t work in China, so I used Google Earth for the first time when studying in America. I was very impressed. It’s one of the websites blocked by The Great Firewall, which can be annoying, but I think there plenty of people in China who simply don’t know any better. Many have never used Google or YouTube. There are plenty of Chinese alternatives to popular Western apps and websites so it’s possible not to really miss Google.
Of course there are also those who find it frustrating even if they decide not to talk too much about it. Chinese politics is not something often discussed anyway. There is one party and you have no voting rights. So why would you still talk about politics? I think this applies to many Chinese people.’
Pei Wang (22, premaster Business Administration)
‘It can be annoying that the video call option on Facebook Messenger doesn’t work in China. For example, when friends from Paris had a reunion through video call, I couldn’t participate. Having said that, it’s still possible to access many blocked social media sites through VPN is the abbreviation for ‘virtual private network’. A VPN offers a way to access the internet securely, anonymously and freely. applications. Often you can try for free for a month after which you have to pay, and the applications are often taken down by the government at some point. But at least there is a good Chinese alternative for every Western app. For example WeChat is the Chinese version of WhatsApp.’
Zhu Yi (22, bachelor Business & Economics)
‘I wasn’t really interested in Instagram for a long time because I didn’t have that many foreign friends. But these days I have more and more Chinese friends who are using Facebook and Instagram, made accessible by installing a VPN on their phones. Things are different now I’m in the Netherlands. I really like the fact I can freely watch all videos on YouTube. And I have more access to learning materials and informative videos. By moving to the Netherlands I got a chance to see the world in a new way.’
Zhihui Shuang (22, premaster Business Administration)
‘Some of my friends in China have Instagram, but I still mostly use WeChat. I find it more convenient. It’s the way I contact friends and family back home. In China you can even use the app to make payments whereas in the Netherlands I have to use my credit card. I like that I can use Google Scholar and Google Docs here though. In China you have to use alternative search engines, such as Bing. When I wrote my Bachelor’s thesis I had limited access to articles because of censorship. That was annoying.’