(Originally posted at Global Voices Online, with a few more personal comments added here.)
Laohumiao (老虎庙) at 24HoursOnline describes his frustrating efforts to figure out whether and how he should register, given that his blog is hosted on Blogbus, which is registered as his blog's host domain. (Laohumiao's blog is thus a subdomain, at http://24hour.blogbus.com.) According to my recent interview with Isaac Mao, who is an investor in Blogbus, Laohumiao doesn't need to register because the blog hosting service is registered and is also required to comply with government filtering and censorship requirements anyway. (So in other words, if the government asks Blogbus to take down Laohumiao's blog, Blobus must comply.)
But Laohumiao says that when he made inquiries with the relevant departments in the Shanghai city government and the Ministry of Information Industry, which issued the registration requirements and which is administering the applications, he got a range of contradictory answers. At the end he was told by one young woman he reached on the phone at the MII in Beijing that blog hosting services as well as all their sub-blogs must ALL register. Then he called the person who runs the Shanghai office in charge of registering Shanghai-based sites. The person said: "信产部热线是怎么搞的？为什么这样解释呢？我要去电话，子域名登什么记呀！" (Loose translation since the colloquialisms don't translate: "What's the deal with the MII? Why are they giving that explanation? I'm going to call them. Sub-domains don't have to register!")
Gotta love Chinese bureaucratic disconnects. I've heard from some Chinese bloggers who hope to slip through the cracks of bureaucratic confusion.
For what it's worth, when surfing Chinese blogs over the past week, I've been running across a lot of blogs with registration numbers on them.
In response to my questions to Chinese bloggers about how internet filtering affects them and other Chinese internet users, I got a variety of answers.
People guess that somewhere between 1-5% of Chinese internet users know how to use proxies. Some think that those who know how to use them are likely to do so, while others think that even those who know how to use proxies don't bother very much because it's such a nuisance and time-consuming.
MadeinJune points us to a PDF paper written in Chinese on "China's superficial online democracy". I haven't read the whole thing yet but it sounds like a great translation project for somebody to take on.
There is a good comment on the importance of bulletin boards and how censorship impacts them.
Ken says that when a site gets blocked that can often create buzz and interest about the site, causing people to learn how to use proxies. But he also thinks that government filtering policies do result in an information imbalance.
Blogger ZhiZhaiTianKong (止斋天空) (blog legally registered in Jiangsu) says my questions are well meaning but show condescension and lack of understanding of the Chinese people. He recommends I should have more contact with people who live in China. He says "we can't and don't need to access all information" and he doesn't feel that he is prevented from saying what he wants.
(I guess the fact that I lived for more than 11 years in China total, spent 2 of those years in a Beijing primary school, and 9 of them working as a journalist, dated a Chinese national for a long time and maintain close friendships with Chinese friends does not count as sufficient "contact with people who live in China." Oh well. Can't win.)