Lots of academic research on Internet censorship treats the countries doing the censorship as monoliths: that is, measurements will typically only be conducted from one client in one fixed location (often a commercial VPS or colocation provider), and the results are assmued to reflect the situation countrywide. When you’re talking about a country as large as China, that assumption seems poorly justified, and there have been several studies aiming to collect more fine-grained information.    This paper is in that line of research, with a systematic survey of censorship of one application (Tor) in roughly 150 different locations across China, repeating the measurement at hourly intervals for 27 days. The measurement clients are diverse both in terms of geographic location and network topology.
The results largely confirm what was already suspected. This particular application is indeed blocked consistently across China, with the possible exception of CERNET (China Education and Research Network), whose filtering is less aggressive. The filtering occurs at major China-wide IXPs, as suspected from previous studies. The firewall appears to operate primarily by dropping inbound traffic to China; the authors don’t try to explain this, but earlier related research  points out that the firewall must wait to see a TCP SYN/ACK packet before it can successfully forge RST packets in both directions. Finally, there is concrete evidence for
failures, lasting hours at a time, uncorrelated with geographic location, where traffic passes uncensored. This was anecdotally known to happen but not previously studied in any kind of detail, to my knowledge. This paper doesn’t speculate at all on why the failures happen or how we could figure that out, which I think is unfortunate.
The techniques used to collect the data are more interesting, at least to me. The principal method is called
hybrid idle scanning, first presented by some of the same authors in a different paper . It allows a measurement host to determine whether a client can complete a TCP handshake with a server, without itself being either the client or the server; if the handshake does not complete successfully, it reveals whether client-server or server-client packets are being lost. It does rely on an information leak in older client TCP stacks (predictable IP-ID sequences, ) but millions of hosts worldwide still run operating systems with these bugs—the authors report an estimate that they they comprise 1% of the global IPv4 address space. Thus, it’s possible to find a measurement client in any geographic location with reasonably common Internet usage. Data from this technique is backed up with more detailed information from traceroutes and SYN probes from a smaller number of locations. They describe a previously-unreported server-side information leak in Linux’s handling of half-open TCP connections, which can be used to study what IP-based blacklisting of a server looks like to that server, without access to that server.
I’m also impressed with the authors’ systematic presentation of the hypotheses they wanted to test and how they chose to test each of them. Anyone interested in network measurements could probably learn something about how to structure an experiment from this paper.