I have returned from the internet no-mans-land that is mainland China (by return, I mean I'm in Seoul). I had a great time in Shanghai, which Ill discuss more about soon, but will say that dealing with proxies and VPNs to access what seem basic services to me (like youtube and blogger) left me less than thrilled with Beijings information policies. Now that I'm out, and less likely to have to pay my way out of some slip of the tongue, I will say the obvious: their attempts at blocking websites are a farce. Everyone I met that lives in Shanghai knows how to get to where they want; it's just a matter of cost. If one of the free proxies doesn't work for you, you can easily find someone selling a secure connection (which you can subscribe to for a monthly fee).
In China, it seems all services and even laws happen on a tiered service model. IE, if you are willing to pay more, you get more, even circumventing laws. That sounds completely obvious and surely applies to any system involving people and money. Maybe it's just more transparent in China, where paying off the police or haggling down an "official" fine seem part of a days work.
Anyways, more to come (more sweeping generalizations, that is) as I get back into the swing of all things internet.