I haven't been able to access my Gmail in China for about a week now. Now before I say that Gmail is blocked in China, I realize that different places in China produce different results for different people, different computers, and different operation systems.
I've kept up on lots of the VPN services that unblock sites in China, and even those are a bit shaky – it seems that what works in Guangdong doesn't necessarily work in Xinjiang. But that's another story.
So a lot of users report that they can access Gmail from China in one place, but not the other. I'm just one of those guys. For example, with my home computer, running Windows XP SP3, using the Firefox 4 Internet browser (English version), I have about a 30 percent success rate as of May 2011. That means that I'm able to access my Gmail account in China only 30 percent of the time (when I'm not using my VPN). Of that 30 percent, only about ten percent of the time am I able to access Gmail in it's full form. Most of the time I've got to view it in basic HTML just open my mail.
At my job it's a totally different story. When I check my Gmail (or attempt to, per say) on the computer at the office, I get about a 5 percent success rate, if that counts for anything at all. All of the time I've got to use HTML mode, and most of the time I can't even get Google to search properly. They are using a Chinese version of Internet Explorer – may IE 6 or 7 I'm not sure. It's miserable. The good news is that I've got to check out Bing and Yahoo sometimes – an I've found out that my site is pretty much invisible on those search engines – bummer. It must be because they censor their search results, because a lot of the articles I've written over the years are also unavailable.
So I use my VPN most of the time. For me, it's matter of convenience. If I have to wait for five minutes for the page to load every time I access Gmail in China (which would be several times a day for me), it would add up to HOURS of waiting time per year. Maybe even days – just waiting for my stupid Gmail account to load. So I just connect to my VPN account and it a few seconds I can access my Gmail account normally.