East vs West
internet cafe china

Cultural Differences: Bureaucracy In China vs The West

Internet censorship is one of the major hassles a foreigner encounters in China, alongside other issues, such as pollution, fake products, and services made inaccessible to foreigners.

In China, the bureaucracy around simple services such as internet use becomes problematic to all foreigners.

The government provides all internet cafes with state-owned photo ID scanning technology.  Chinese citizens who use public internet services are required by law to register their Chinese ID (身份证) with the Chinese authorities.

However, the state-owned scanning technology is only designed to scan Chinese documentation.  So, foreigners with passports as identification who wish to use public internet services in China usually encounter bureaucratic troubles with the service staff.

The Trick To Bypassing Chinese Censorship

In one example, I entered a public internet café in China, approached the service staff, asked to use a computer, and provided my passport identification.

The Chinese kid fetched his boss to ask, “How do we do this?”

The Chinese boss attempted to scan my passport too, but it would not work.

In the confusion, I asked the Chinese boss, “How do Hong Kong people use the internet, or foreigners?  Can’t you just photocopy my passport?”

The Chinese boss provided an option for me to register through WeChat (微信).  However, we soon discovered WeChat needed a Chinese ID (身份证) to complete the registration process online.  This was more Chinese bureaucracy.

Australian Business And Government Bureaucracy

In Australia, businesses are far less concerned about government bureaucracy.

If the Australian government mandates business to pay a goods and services tax (GST) of 10 percent on all business sales, the Australian business will soon find ways to offer other payment methods to customers in order to keep them loyal.

Chinese people on the other hand are very process-driven.  There was no way I could use public internet in China unless I was in possession of the correct identification.  By this stage, foreigners would usually leave the premises and feel discriminated against.

However, I found a workaround.

How To Use Internet Services In China

I told the Chinese internet café boss, “I don’t have to use the internet.  I can just use a computer here.”

The Chinese boss complied, “If that is all you want to do, sure.”

The Chinese ID (身份证) is only connected to internet use, and not computer use.  I can play computer games in public places freely, but the Chinese government does monitor internet use in China.

When I became seated at a computer, I was happy to see the internet was also connectable.  I paid 14 RMB (人民币) for one-hour of computer use and was able to receive free internet use with this trick.  Chinese censorship still blocked websites such as Facebook, Google and YouTube.

Next time a Chinese internet café turns you away due to bureaucracy, remember this trick, and you should be able to access internet services.


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