Living in a world of only Chinese apps—no Google, Facebook, Twitter!—made me appreciate how remarkable the country’s Internet actually is.
Last year, the Chinese government made me open a Yahoo account. Well, sort of. I was headed to China for the first time in four years, and I knew I would have a difficult time accessing Gmail and Google and Facebook and the numerous other sites that are blocked in China but essential to my digital life in the U.S. I asked around, and somebody told me that Astrill, one of the better-known VPNs out there, no longer worked on iPhone. The government had managed to squash it, too.