I’ve been to China a few times, but unfortunately all of my recent trips were exclusively confined to Hong Kong. Prior to that, my experiences in the rest of the country was prior to the whole internet revolution so hotels in general didn’t have net.
In Hong Kong, the hotels seem to have pretty solid net access, much like you’d expect in the United States or Europe. No government censorship that I ran in to, however Hong Kong is administered differently than the rest of China, so not sure how it is outside of HK. Hong Kong has greater democratic systems in place and is a special administrative area.
Most hotels in China have internet access. The quality depends. 4-5 star hotels generally have fast access and lower down the foodchain it is slower. If he just needs to sync, then the business center will work.
Could just find a Starbucks - there’s about 60 in Beijing and Shanghai, and wireless in there.
If he speaks Chinese, there are internet cafes everywhere in the country that he could get access from.
If he has a smart phone or wireless card that gets gprs, he’ll have access everywhere he goes but not sure what his roaming charges are. He could also buy a pre-paid card to get wireless access from different operators.
as for censorship, depends on what sites he’s trying to access. Your basic news, MSN, yahoo, dope, web surfing seems to be pretty problem free. although I’ve got no real base line for comparison as I’m not sure what sites are blocked, a connection error, or a dead webpage. Wikipedia is blocked for example. As, I’ve heard, so are a lot of porn sites.
It should be no problem accessing any website he wants to, unless he plans on doing some reading about, as shown before, the Tiananmen Square incident. The speed is fine, but a bit slower than what he is probably used to. For whatever reason G-Mail sometimes took forever to log in to.
Oh, BTW, the hotel will probably have ethernet in the rooms and wireless in the lobby.
If you know anyone in China, most people have a phone modem Internet account in their homes.
You can also go to an Internet bar, but it will be full of kids Lanning, cigarette smoke, and teenagers shouting “wo chao ni ma” into microphones at other teenagers somewhere else in Chjna.
Oh, and even the dingiest of hotels has those little business centers with Internet service.
I got reasonable internet access all through China, right up into Tibet, though going west beyond Shigatse there was nothing. In Lhasa, some places had big signs up in English saying “Please DO NOT access any websites about Tibetan or Chinese politics”. They didn’t want to get shut down by naive twenty-something western activists.
I too had problems with Gmail in China. I think it was down to using really shoddy old versions of Internet Explorer. To get round this, I had Portable Firefox on a USB key, which worked fine, except where the PCs were so old that they were pre-USB, or were locked down so as not to accept peripheral devices.
The majority of internet cafés, however, had big, fast desktops with multiple USB hubs on them. Not to mention kids Lanning, cigarette smoke, and teenagers shouting “wo chao ni ma” into microphones at other teenagers somewhere else in Chjna [sic]. (Am I right in guessing that “wo chao ni ma” means “pwned your ass, n00b” in Chinese?)
I spent a couple weeks in Shanghai, Chongqin, Beijing, and the Yangtze last Octorber. My 2 cents only, therefore.
For general travel, an Internet kiosk is the easiest, like most developing countries. Speed varies but it’s sort of a shame to be in China and spend time cruising the Internet–you can do that at home (sorry for the editorial). I used it for staying in touch and researching places I wanted to visit. I also used an English-to-Chinese translation site to ask the kiosk guys basic questions. This latter scheme was a little sketchy since you don’t know if you are asking him what you think you are asking him…
Censorship of sites occurs, with the usual assortment of ways to get around it, but why does he care? The place to research the naughtiness of China’s government is here, not while you are a guest there.
I would not personally bother to take my own laptop. It is easier to use a kiosk, and the hotels I stayed in (Courtyard Marriott, e.g.) had their own business center catering to travelers, with an hourly fee. More expensive than independent kiosks, but more convenient.
I had two problems: One kiosk didn’t have any keyboards. They aren’t very useful there, for obvious reasons. Where dialup is used it is painfully slow. (I was on the Yangtze river at the time, so perhaps I am complaining unfairly. 15 years ago I would have rejoiced at connectivity from a boat on the Yangtze)