Sunday, January 24, 2010

Google vs. China

I know this old news by today's standard, however I think this story warrants a post.

Essentially Google is threatening to close up shop in China because some GMail accounts were hacked, specifically those of some Chinese activists. This has been a boon for people who already have a bone to pick with China (read anyone who has lost a job as a result of Chinese, American politicians looking to score some points, and those with legitimate human rights concerns). However, I think most of the discussion has focused less on why the Chinese government censors the Internet in the first place.

Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution provides the right of freedom to speech and article 40 provides the freedom and privacy of correspondence to Chinese citizens. However, article 40's caveat is that when it comes to state security, all bets are off. How is state security in China defined? Simply put, broadly. Any mention of independence for Tibet or Taiwan is anathema to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), as their legitimacy for being in charge is based largely on the fact that they brought an end to the warlordism that existed during the early years of the Republic of China (that now lives on Taiwan). I find this eerily reminiscent when a new dynasty would claim that it had inherited the "mandate of heaven" and was therefore fit to rule. At some point I'll have to do a post on why the CCP isn't that much different from the imperial system that existed until 1911.

Essentially, the Chinese government believes the best way to avoid chaos is to prevent any signs of disunity. Such disunity is embraced by the West, especially in Italy where every province would form its own country if it could. The West prides itself on individual success and identity, traits that go against socialism where society itself as a single unit is held sacred. Consequently censoring the Internet is a way of ensuring that Chinese society remains intact. What about their free market reforms you ask? Well, that's not really capitalism; it's socialism with Chinese characteristics.

As for the topic at hand, I'm not sure where this dispute between Google and China will lead. Google hasn't had much success against Baidu, a homegrown Chinese search engine. Google may figure that China isn't worth the expense and head home. On the other hand, they may be trying to get a better deal for their other ventures such as their new cell phone. What I think is apparent is that Google's line of standing up for the rights of its customers is wonk and has more to do with business concerns. As my father told me growing up, "Let the numbers do the talking." Google is no doubt looking at its numbers.

No comments:

Post a Comment