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great firewall of chinaThe Great Firewall of China, officially known as the Golden Shield project, uses a variety of methods to block foreign websites that the Chinese government doesn’t like. The Chinese government doesn’t publish a list of blocked sites, so it’s not easy for foreigners to tell if their website is visible in China or not. However, there are several web-based tools that can quickly check for you.

The Great Firewall of China has several different ways of blocking websites, so your website’s availability may change over time. If you have a front-page report about Tiananmen Square, you might find your website blocked, only to find it unblocked after the report vanishes from your front page. Another website might have had its DNS records tampered with or might see any connections ended by the firewall itself, no matter what the website’s current content is.

Great Firewall Of China

In spite of its name, the Great Firewall’s policies can be patchwork and inconsistently applied. Websites blocked in one region may not be blocked in another region. Great Firewall Of China is the quickest way to check your website’s availability at different locations in China.

great firewall of china

Enter a website address and the service will send it to five different servers in China. Each server tries to access the website and shows a success or failure message.

around firewall china

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It’s simple and quick, but this service has some drawbacks. You can only test homepages and not individual subpages. When I tried to specify a subpage on a website, I received an error message. The service also only checks if a website responds – the Great Firewall could re-route website requests to another web server and you’d be none the wiser.

WebsitePulse

WebsitePulse is useful because it lets you check specific subpages. The Great Firewall doesn’t only block websites, it also filters individual pages based on forbidden words and phrases in their URLs or content. WebsitePulse also offers different regions of China. Both Great Firewall Of China and WebsitePulse can test from Beijing, but the other locations are different.

around firewall china

Plug in a webpage address and you can see whether or not it’s accessible. WebsitePulse can only check one location in China at a time.

around firewall china

The English Wikipedia looks available. We’d get the same results if we tested it on Great Firewall Of China.

great firewall china

Further investigation reveals that some parts of the website are being blocked. Here, the Wikipedia page on the Great Firewall itself is inaccessible. Note how it says “Failure in Receiving Network Data” instead of providing a clear “Blocked” message. The Great Firewall does not inform users when it blocks a website; blocked requests just appear as network errors. The results from Seattle help clarify this – Wikipedia itself isn’t down; it just appears down in China when you access this page.

ViewDNS

ViewDNS checks for DNS poisoning. One tactic the Great Firewall uses is redirecting website addresses to other websites. For example, an Internet user in China might be redirected to Baidu, a search engine based in China, when they try to access Google. This subterfuge will show up as your website loading successfully in other tools. Another tactic is just changing a website’s DNS entry and pointing it nowhere – the website won’t load at all.

great firewall china

Enter an website’s address to see the expected IP address and whether it matches with the IP address returned from DNS servers in China. ViewDNS also tries to access the website in different regions and informs you whether or not it was successful.

great firewall of china

Note how each different region points Facebook’s website to a different IP address — none of them load anything, but this prevents access to Facebook. It’s also interesting that the server in Inner Mongolia received a timeout rather than an incorrect IP address — is this because Facebook is being blocked differently in that region, or because of a legitimate network problem? That’s the thing about the Great Firewall: it’s hard to tell whether the firewall is interfering or whether there’s an actual network problem.

Bypassing The Great Firewall

Is your website blocked in China? You may be wondering how to unblock it. Unfortunately, there’s no appeal process. The most you can do is remove blacklisted words and content and hope that helps. There’s no official list of blacklisted content, either – Kafkaesque, isn’t it? The Great Firewall blocks by IP address, so multiple websites may be blocked if they share an IP address with a flagged website.

The good news is that the Great Firewall doesn’t block encrypted traffic What Is HTTPS & How To Enable Secure Connections Per Default What Is HTTPS & How To Enable Secure Connections Per Default Security concerns are spreading far and wide and have reached the forefront of most everybody's mind. Terms like antivirus or firewall are no longer strange vocabulary and are not only understood, but also used by... Read More . There’s no way to inspect encrypted traffic and businesses require encryption for security, so blocking it isn’t an option. This means that any foreign VPN service 7 Completely Free VPN Services to Protect Your Privacy 7 Completely Free VPN Services to Protect Your Privacy Read More or proxy server 3 Facebook Proxies & Hacks to Check Facebook From Anywhere 3 Facebook Proxies & Hacks to Check Facebook From Anywhere Read More  can be used to bypass the great firewall. If you’re in China, you can tunnel out of the Great Firewall of China with a VPN or proxy server and access the full Internet.

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  1. Dave Parks
    July 5, 2012 at 12:25 am

    Nothing seems to click on this page except this one comment form. I can't get any of the boxes to take the text of an URL, so I have not been able to test any URLs.

  2. Irene
    June 4, 2012 at 10:30 am

    This is very helpful. Didn't even know a site exists. Thank you!

    • Chris Hoffman
      July 6, 2012 at 12:37 am

      You'er welcome! here's another great one I've recently become aware of: https://en.greatfire.org/

  3. Fan Yi
    April 29, 2012 at 7:00 am

    greatfirewallofchina.org uses viewdns.info's api, meaning the results will always be the same. For those who look for a decent vpn, check out https://breakwall.net/ . We specialize in China.

    • Chris Hoffman
      May 1, 2012 at 4:15 am

      Interesting, thanks for pointing that out -- either way, greatfirewallofchina.org provides a "slicker" interface, whereas viewdns.info provides more detailed technical information.

  4. Charlie Smith
    February 13, 2012 at 1:16 am

     Chris - please also check out my website - greatfire.org. I believe we have the most comprehensive database of blocked searches and websites available anywhere.

    Charlie

    • Chris Hoffman
      February 13, 2012 at 6:03 am

      Wow! What an awesome website. I'll seriously consider doing a post on this one in the future.

      It looks like a great way to explore the restrictions of the great firewall, not just check out a single website or two (like the ones here.)

    • Charlie Smith
      February 16, 2012 at 12:20 pm

      Glad you like it. Feel free to reach out to us at any time if you need more info. greatfire at greatfire dot org.

  5. Rosanna
    February 1, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    http://zapit.nu/1od

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