Why My First 3 Hours in a Beijing Hotel Have Been UNSUCCESSFUL: A Developing Story


Beijing. 2:00 AM. The last 30 hours have been spent flying from D.C. to Tokyo to Beijing. I’m in a cold hotel room; still cold because I can’t figure out how to turn up the heat, haha. There’s complete darkness in my hotel room because my French roommate from the Washington Semester Program is asleep.

In 3 hours of hacking thus far, I have been unable to get around China’s Great Firewall. For those of you who read my post “Hey China…Stop Censoring The Internet“, you will remember how frustrated I am about many of my favorite sites being blocked.

First, I tried to follow the advice my friend Alex Priest gave me and went to VPN.American.edu to use a proxy server to get around the firewall. Unfortunately, I got this error message:

Host Checker did not get installed properly. Your computer does not meet the security requirements.

NOOOOO! You can imagine my frustration. So, I then tried the advice of my good friend Ting Gao, who I met in Singapore and who is from China. Ting had advised me to download either ‘Hotspot Shield’ or ‘Freegate’. Naturally, I went to Google and did a search for ‘Hotspot Shield’ (note: Google loads as ‘google.com.hk’ because their Chinese search engine ‘.cn’ is still shut down). I found the site, but – - take a guess – - when I clicked on it, it was blocked.

Then? Google stopped working for me. In the 30 minutes or so since, Google has worked sparingly. I found the above image for this article, but all other searches have resulted in errors. Looks like I should have downloaded ‘Hotspot Shield’ and/or ‘Freegate’ before I arrived in Singapore.


Well, how bad is it? BAD. The list is long. Facebook. Twitter. Videos on TechCrunch. Posterous. YouTube. Foursquare. The entire “ThisWeekIn” network (including Jason Calacanis’ interview with Dave McClure on ‘This Week in Startups’ that I am dying to watch), which runs on YouTube. Even Lil Wayne’s fan site that counts down his time until getting out of jail (now less than 24 hours), “WeezyThanxYou”…All blocked. 100%.

Luckily, Grooveshark is working. So, as the countdown until Lil Wayne is freed from Riker’s Island prison ticks closer and closer, I’m able to listen to some Weezy tunes in my headphones while writing this.

Help, someone, please: I need to get around China’s Great Firewall!

  • PhilExley

    Met ya boy Zander today brotha, had some great conversation. One story he told me was about a friend of his who went over to China and blasted their internet censoring anddddd got detained for 2 months…. Love you bro, holla at me

    -Phil X

  • http://www.johnexleyonline.com/ JohnExley

    Appreciate the warning my brother, really awesome to hear from ya of course! That’s great you were able to meet Zander – really sharp fella. Good buddy. Let’s connect on Skype I wanna hear all about the CEO Conference in Chicago. I bet you’re more inspired than you’ve ever been before huh?

    I will not sit down and be quiet about things I’m passionate about. Let’s just hope I figure out how to do it in a non-punishable way I guess haha! Talk soon my brother, love ya.

  • http://www.kokev.in Kevin Ko

    Sounds tough man, wish I could help – Should’ve recommended you some VPNs while youre were still in the States.

    Here’s some interesting stuff off Twitter I think you might be interested in since I know you can’t access it right now.


  • http://www.kokev.in Kevin Ko

    Man I accidentally clicked the post button. Anyway, that was “19 Entrepreneurs Reveal Why People Fail to Build a Profitable Business”

    Continuing on,

    10 questions to ask at the start of your project

    (yet another) What I Wish I Knew Before I Started My Company

    msuster had a GREAT article here you might’ve read it but he calls it one of the most important posts he’s written for startup entrepreneurs.

    I think Dave McClure is in Nanjing right now which is pretty far from you but maybe his blog has some stuff on China tech and living.

    I can try to hook up more stuff as they become available so you don’t miss out on too much while you’re in China, let me know man. Stay safe.

  • http://www.kokev.in Kevin Ko

    Oh and I found this site not too long ago, some articles are ok but a lot are really useful and relevant you might like it if you have a lot of downtime to just do some reading.


  • http://www.johnexleyonline.com/ JohnExley

    Kevin, gotta love ya for this. Thanks a million for the link! We’ve been quite busy here and the VPN’s I’ve tried when I’m back at the hotel haven’t worked on my computer so far. I got Freegate on a flash drive from a Chinese friend here, installed it, and then my Internet wouldn’t worked. Apparently it was designed to work on Internet Explorer, and I use Chrome. When I tried to adjust the proxy on Chrome to fit the Freegate proxy address, for some reason my Internet still wouldn’t work at all. So I had to turn off the Freegate just to get back on the Internet.

    If I don’t succeed in Beijing or Shanghai, it’s not blocked in Hong Kong so the longest I’ll be “off the grid” is the 15th.

    Until then, thanks a ton for these links!

  • http://www.johnexleyonline.com/ JohnExley

    Haha no problem brother. I’m checking out the link now, and these other ones are gold!

    The Suster one is classic. Love it. I’ve read it over a couple times and showed it to a couple friends here on the China trip. I gotta get that book man, have you read “The Innovator’s Dilemma”? His post made a lot of sense, and you know it didn’t seem as long as some of Suster’s other golden posts, so he was able to succeed in writing one of his all time best blogs in shorter-than-normal form.

    Good look on the Dave McClure info – would be amazing to meet him while I’m here. I’m going to look into his blog more, I know he was in Singapore not too long after I finished studying abroad there earlier this year. He spoke at a conference, echelon 2010, that was literally 1 week after I returned home to New York. I interviewed the founder of echelon 2010 while I was there (Mohan Belani) – he’s the man. Super sharp, well connected dude.

    Again – thanks a ton for these links and for taking care of your bro while I’m censored from Twitter! Take it easy, catch up soon for sure.

  • http://www.johnexleyonline.com/ JohnExley

    Amazing dude. Appreciate your hustle. Thank you!

  • http://www.hiddenbusinesstreasures.com Michael Benidt

    Amazing that you were able to re-tweet a definitely trivial issue compared to what you are dealing with. Man, I had no idea you were over there. Just hang up the computer and go out and walk the Great Wall. You’re in China – get away from your screen!

  • http://www.johnexleyonline.com/ JohnExley

    ;- )
    Thanks Mr. Benidt, always such a pleasure to hear from you and remember the opportunity you gave me to blog for the very first time. One of the direct causes of starting my own site and blogging a bit more regularly is your belief in me to write an article about pre-networking just 1.5 years ago.

    China has been a very unique blessing getting to see the country and learn about the business culture. And yes sir, we are literally out of the hotel visiting companies, touring the city, listening to guest speakers every single day from 8am til sometimes 10pm or later so it is quite exhausting and trust me I have barely enough time to scan emails and blog posts at night, on top of working on a project where we are consulting for a Shanghai-based startup and have a presentation on Saturday! It’s really fun though.

    And the Great Wall was special, got some really cool pictures. The view was simply spectacular. I prefer Shanghai thus far over Beijing though, Shanghai is a much more lively city in my opinion.

    BTW – successfully “free” now ;-)