“The Best Father’s Day Gift Ever”: a VPN

At The Anthill, New York Times researcher and stand-up comedian Mia Li describes an unexpected request from her father:

One Wednesday in early June my father called me at work and said, “I heard it’s going to be Fathers Day soon.”

Alarmed, I sat up in my chair and tried to make sense of this. My father had always said that the invented foreign festivals were decoys imported from America to sell cakes and carnations to China’s new middle class gullibles. Even still, in recent years it had become customary for Chinese children to buy their parents gifts on Fathers and Mothers Day. Pressure from both Confucius and the consumer industry had become insurmountable, let alone guilt trips from mum and dad. Starting the year I got a job, each year my mother dropped hints about what gift she wanted (at least she didn’t make me hand over a portion of my salary like some other Chinese mothers do). But my proud father would never ask me for anything, so I thought.

“I’d like to get you a gift!” I said, in what I hoped was the right response. “What would you like?”

“I’d like an Astrill account,” he replied, not skipping a beat. […] “Can you help me? I definitely need to climb the firewall to keep running my business.” [Source]

Foreign firms in China and Chinese firms abroad, as well as others such as academic researchers, have previously highlighted the burden that China’s places on them. On the other hand, it has likely helped the domestic growth of homegrown firms by sheltering them from foreign competition. Restrictions on circumvention tools have steadily tightened over the past year, with the latest escalation coming ahead of the recent World War II victory parade in Beijing.