china internet censorship

How the Internet Works in China

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China smartphone metro

As soon as you arrive in China, you will notice that the internet is not the same as what you’re used to at home. Huge cultural differences and restrictions mean that it might be based on the same technology, but how the internet is used is very different from outside of China.

China smartphone shoppingCensorship

Of course, the most important anddistinctive part of the Chinese internet is the fact that huge parts of the websites and services that the western world is using are blocked. While there are ways to circumvent these restrictions, Chinese people, in general, do not need the access to western social media and news platforms. For every western website blocked, there are several Chinese alternatives. While people in the western world use social media to connect to people from all over the world, social media in China is generally focused on the Chinese people only.


As soon as you ride the metro once, you will see that a lot of people in China are constantly on their phones – even more than people in the western world! You’ll see them doing all kinds of things – watching a movie, playing a game, reading a book or chatting with other people. It does make sense to have the phone ready at all times, since it integrates almost any service you can imagine. You can have your metro card on your phone, shop online and order food delivery, buy train tickets and hotel rooms or pay your rent and bills – all on your phone! The sooner you get into using your phone for all the necessities of your daily life in China, the easier it will be for you!

QR Codes

QR Codes are known all over the world, but there aren’t many places that use them just like China does. A common occurrence is the adding of friends on WeChat, the most popular messenger. The most convenient way of doing that is by scanning each other’s QR code. But QR codes are used for way more than this; you can sign up for newsletters, follow social media accounts, get the menu in a restaurant, all using a QR code! Not surprisingly, a lot of apps have a QR code reader already included.


Also often linked to QR Codes; in China, you can pay almost everywhere with your phone. You just have to scan a QR code, and your phone is directly linked to your bank account. This form of payment is also available in the western world with Apple Pay and Google Pay, but its far from being as popular as WeChat Pay and Alipay in China. In fact, in most places you can only pay with that form of payment. Paying with cash almost never happens in China anymore, and it is just not the way to pay anymore.

General Quality

You will notice that a lot of medium and big sized companies in China do not really value their internet presentation that much. There are multiple reasons for this: For one, there are other channels used to promote businesses in China – the Internet is just not that attractive anymore. Chinese people get information through apps and services, and not so much from websites. Also, while there are more and more mobile internet users all over the world, Chinese people are way ahead of anybody else; over 95% of all Chinese internet users are mobile users! That comes with a higher priority for apps and mobile websites, and less focus on traditional websites.

In general, the Internet in China might seem like it is very similar to the one at home (as soon as you manage to find ways to access western sites), but there are many more possibilities to explore as soon as you get into it! You can follow the same rules as with everything you did not know about Asia before: Be curious, so you get the most out of your time abroad!

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