some china thoughts

I’m doing a series of posts on our China trip — some that are particularly politically or partner sensitive are behind the MoCo firewall — but I want to repost anything that’s not company or politically sensitive here to my personal blog. Here’s my first re-post (with some slight edits from the original, mostly in terms of voice):

Chris, Gen & I just got back from about 10 days in Beijing & Shanghai, which we were visiting to sort out what Mozilla’s status is there, what our prospects for making a difference there are, and to start reaching out to folks who can help us there. It was a very interesting & productive trip — lots and lots of thoughts that I’m going to try to do a series of blog posts here about. A lot of it I’ll repost externally, as it might be interesting to our broader community as well.

So the first thing I’ll note is that China is a big place. 1.3B citizens, something like 100 cities with a population of over 1,000,000. Land area that’s very nearly equal to the United States. Something like 2,000 major universities. 137M Internet users, which ranks the country second after the United States.

But China also displays a remarkable unity, stemming from it’s government over the past 60 years, certainly. There is a single written language (Simplified Chinese, so called because Mao instituted a single, unified written language across many, many different spoken languages/dialects including Mandarin, Cantonese, etc, and in comparison to Traditional Chinese, still used in Taiwan) and a single time zone (Beijing Standard) across the whole country. And their approach to planning is pretty unbelievable, ranging from things like the Pudong (literally “new area” in Shanghai) that they’ve constructed from nothing over the past 10 years or so after moving out 100k+ former residents to things like their series of 5 year plans/themes. As an aside, it seems that they really do work and live by their 5 year plans — at one of the ministries that we visited, the guy actually mentioned that they were doing something because they were in the middle of the 11th 5 year plan (do the math). Pretty interesting.

Not to mention that the intent of the government there is also to have a single (very large) point of connection to the Internet, all going through a system that locals call “The Great Firewall of China” — a system that seems to block certain sites & types of content. Our experience there was that the Wikipedia was always blocked, as was the Google cache, and slashdot was often blocked, seemingly dependent on content of particular pages. Our experience was short, and clearly impacted by the Taiwan earthquake in December, so it’s not authoritative. (I’ll post some notes about their unusual Internet infrastructure later, too.)

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