The Atlantic has an interesting discussion of the Great Firewall of China and how effective it is despite it's holes. The author has fascinating and timely inside technical information but the effective elements are not technical. The system is intentionally unpredictable so people can never be sure where the problem is. No wonder they love Windows. More importantly, no good comes out of chasing the truth so people censor themselves out of fear and sense of futility.
What the government cares about is making the quest for information just enough of a nuisance that people generally won't bother.
... All around them is more information about China and things Chinese than they could possibly take in. ... When this much is available inside the Great Firewall, why go to the expense and bother, or incur the possible risk, of trying to look outside?
"Domestic censorship is the real issue, and it is about social control, human surveillance, peer pressure, and self-censorship," Xiao Qiang of Berkeley says. Last fall, a team of computer scientists from the University of California at Davis and the University of New Mexico published an exhaustive technical analysis of the GFW's operation and of the ways it could be foiled. But they stressed a nontechnical factor: "The presence of censorship, even if easy to evade, promotes self-censorship."
Rebecca MacKinnon [a former Beijing correspondent for CNN] says
... "the controls mean that whole topics inconvenient for the regime simply don't exist in public discussion." Most Chinese people remain wholly unaware of internationally noticed issues like, for instance, the controversy over the Three Gorges Dam.
The usual excuses for doing business in China are swatted away.
the vision of democracy-through-communications-technology is so convincing to so many Americans.
... let me emphasize how unconvincing this vision is to most people who deal with Chinas system of extensive, if imperfect, Internet controls.
Blogger Richard Stallman notes that the same social dynamics apply here too.
The same is true of the US corporate media: it is not very hard to find out the things they don't say, but most Americans don't bother, and the result is that Bush repeatedly gets away with lies.
Other issues of great importance to Americans that are nearly impossible to get good information on are the structure and regulation of health insurance, lending, telecommunications, agriculture and the very food on their table. If it was really a big deal, CNN and other broadcasters would cover it