Visitors to China are often perplexed to find that they can't access Twitter, Facebook or other sites. The reason isn't that they don't have access to cellular or Wi-Fi networks; instead, it's state censorship and surveillance courtesy of the Golden Shield Project AKA "The Great Firewall of China." Roman Loyola at TechHive recently visited Beijing and used the trip as a research opportunity to see how visitors with iPhones can bypass the Great Firewall and tweet their trip to friends back home.
It turns out to be somewhat easy; you just need to have an unlocked GSM iPhone and then purchase a SIM card when you arrive in China. Before you leave, though, you also need to sign up for a virtual private network (VPN) service. Loyola highlights two in particular -- Express VPN and AirVPN -- and taps Express VPN as being much easier to set up.
During his time in Beijing, Loyola says he was able to hit Apple, Bing, and Instagram without resorting to the VPN. However, Facebook and Twitter weren't available. That's where the VPN came in handy, and Loyola mentioned that other than a noticeable 4 to 5 second lag when sending a tweet or posting on Facebook, everything worked well.
It's a good read for travelers, and an absolute must for those who live or work in China and want unfettered access to the Internet. As Loyola points out, "the Chinese government is actively (and endlessly) trying to prevent the use of VPNs to access the 'outside world,'" so it's possible that the methods described in his post may change in the future.