China's history as a denizen of the internet and as a country of internet users is a rather one-sided one. Mostly, it's one of paranoid censorship and suppression of anything that departs from the official party line. And yet, the real interesting part is the strange dichotomy of the technology companies that profit from China, advocate openness on the internet and serve as the backbone of the censorship racket in China. This Time article really spells out a lot of the interesting give-and-take that has served as the basis for this over the last 10 years.
At the beginning of the search engines' relationship with China, there was quite an outcry amongst all of the various US News Agencies, Congressional Representatives. Interestingly, Google and others responded with a request that Congress give them some sort of legal guidance in how to deal with China beyond the prevailing traditional response that a company typically obeys the laws of the various countries that it operates in. No such guidance was ever given.
And now we have this: Google has declared a new approach on China. Apparently Google has decided that China's bad behavior as a government has descended to the level that it can no longer conscion providing services to China and in China. Reading between the lines in Google's statement, it would appear that not only is China using Google to abuse its populace, it is actually surreptitiously sanctioning efforts to compromise Google in order to further its own war on human rights. So, instead of compliance with the desires of China, it will further its own stated agenda of "Do No Evil", even if that act of non-censorship causes it to no longer be able to do business in China.
And even here, it looks like Google is afraid for its own employees, especially as its PR people write, "We want to make clear that this move was driven by our executives in the United States, without the knowledge or involvement of our employees in China who have worked incredibly hard to make Google.cn the success it is today."
Google realizes that China may very well go above and beyond shutting down Google.cn and actually go after Google's own Chinese employees. And yet, at the same time, it is very well possible that the only currency that a even multi-national corporation like Google can have to impact change in China is shaming them on an international stage.
So I'm not sure where this takes us exactly, but it should be VERY interesting.Posted by Vengeful Cynic at January 12, 2010 11:03 PM | TrackBack