‘Times’ foreign editor says readers in China are finding their way to the site despite government blockade

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How long might the Chinese government keep up its blockade of The New York Times' main website and that of its Chinese-language offshoot, cn.nytimes.com?

"I don't think we're expecting that there's going to be an instant result," Times foreign editor Joe Kahn told Capital just now, following up on our earlier request for comment.

"We don't know exactly how this is gonna play out," said Kahn. "There have been short-term blockages of both English and Chinese sites run by Western media in China before, and there are also examples of long-term blockages. We've obviously seen a strong reaction from them, and that suggests this isn't just a casual thing that's going to disappear by tomorrow morning."

Chinese authorities swiftly blocked the country's access to nytimes.com and cn.nytimes.com following the publication on both sites late Thursday of an exposé detailing the wealth accumulated by family members of Prime Minister Wen Jiaobao. The move was reminiscent of a similar action China took last summer against Bloomberg News, whose website remained blocked for at least a month after it published a similar article about a high-ranking politician.

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Kahn said the Times website was regularly blocked by the notoriously itchy censors in the Chinese government in the late '90s after it first launched. But in recent years nytimes.com has remained mostly available to Chinese readers. This was the first major hurdle the Times has encountered in China since it launched its Chinese-language website last summer.

Times executives have said the China site has already exceeded expectations in terms of user growth, pageviews and revenue, and that there's been significant interest so far from luxury advertisers. And Kahn is confident that the authorities are aware of its value, too.

"It's no small thing for them to cut themselves off from The New York Times," he said. "I think they want to be a part of the international media scene, their own media wants to be resonating abroad, and they want their own people to be informed about what's happening in the west. We'll just keep trying to figure out ways to keep getting our news and information and opinion to Chinese readers."

Which brought Kahn to his next point: Chinese traffic to nytimes.com hasn't "dropped off a cliff" since yesterday, he said: "People there find a way around the firewall."