I grew up during the Cold War. The word Communism evoked visions of bread lines, Gestapo-style police tactics, checkpoints, and harsh oppression. I pictured all Communist countries to be like Moscow in Firefox.
My first entry in to China was exactly as I had pictured. We were taking a private car across the border between Hong Kong and Shenzhen. At the border we all had to get out of the car and walk in to a large processing building. Inside were armed guards and lines of people getting there Passports and Visas checked. Unlike 90% of the world, to visit China you need to apply for and receive a special Visa. This requires letters of invitation, etc... and you are limited to how many entries you can make in to Mainland China (most Visas are only good for 1 year).
The real shock comes once you are processed and are actually "in country". When you walk out the back door you are greeted by huge billboards for every kind of product and service.
I never really got a feel of being behind the Curtain, so to speak, until I went to visit some of my favorite Blogs.
China has a very high-tech Censorship group. Yahoo and Cisco have both been accused of 'helping jail China writer' . I was also aware that certain things were "edited" out of the web, specifically any reference to the 1989 Tiananmen Square Riots. What surprised me was that the enitre Blogger domain is blocked as well. I tried to go to a few sites that I KNOW contain no references to anything political, but to no avail. This was the first time that I really understood that I was "inside" the belly of the Beast. I would be reminded of it again in the very near future, during a visit to Tiananmen Square, but that's another post.
So, for all of you who use Blogger, you can proudly say that you have officially been "Banned in China"