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Miscellaneous thoughts and ramblings
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
Microsoft and Free Speech
Back in December, Microsoft shut down a blog that was critical of the Chinese government. It was run by a Chinese journalist named Zhao Jing. I never read this blog, but I hate the thought of Americans serving the interests of communist foreign governments by repressing free speech. Scum! Well, I guess you can rationalize anything. There's a lot of money to be made in China. You have to do as the government says or you can't get any. It's a business decision. The Chinese people did not have a lot of freedoms to begin with, so nothing has really changed. It's not like software piracy - that's a real crime.
Oh, try this one on for size - the same search for Tiananmen on the U.S. version of Google google.com/images and on the Chinese version google.cn/images.

Its not just Microsoft.

(Hat tip to LGF)
Even though this is not news to me, it is chilling. Yahoo does it, too. I'm sure everyone doing business there does it to some extent. Drives me crazy.

There's an amusing parody in this week's Weekly Standard.
I agree with what everyone has said. I don't see what choice the American companies have. They can either agree to self-censor, or China will censor them out all together. I have to believe in the long run, it's better for the Chinese people to have access to some of Yahoo and Google than none. Communism was defeated in Poland partially because of the fax machine which was used extensively by Solidarity to spread flyers and info to supporters. The internet will have the same liberating influence. China may try to block sites, but ultimately anonymizer sites and various hacks will come up faster than the government will be able to quash them. Truth will out.
The Tiananmen images - that's great.

Chilling? Perhaps - my first title for the post was Microsoft Sucks, but I wussed out so as not to invoke the ire of Microsoft's legal department.

My gut reaction is anger, however. Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo are communist collaborators. Their values (if ever they had any) are flexible and secondary to sales growth.

Maybe the truth will out. I hope so. In the meantime, I guess appeasement and collaboration are business as usual. I guess I am less comfortable with it than you are, Bean.
Oven: I don't like it either, but what's the alternative? Are the Chinese people better if Microsoft and Google simply had no presense there?
Microsoft and Google ought to be there, of course, but not as collaborators. I see evidence that they're suppressing information that is critical of the Chinese government. Damn them for that. If, on the other hand, they are secretly working behind the scenes to undermine restrictions on access to information, then all is forgiven. That is a wonderful alternative, but is it happening or just wishful thinking?
Hmm. It's a lame article, and I'll tell you why.

Google blocks access to politically sensitive material. That is a politically negative act, if you believe in free access to information, freedom of speech, and the right to dissent.

The U.S. government permits (encourages?) free trade with China. That is a politically positive act, if you believe in capitalism and free trade.

The author tries to establish moral equivalence between Google's actions (a political negative) with Congress' actions (a political positive). Of course the two are not equivalent.

The ultimate fallacy: "The unpleasant reality is that doing business with an authoritarian regime is inherently dirty." Oh really? Is it dirty if I sell aspirin to the Chinese? I had no idea. Is it dirty if I hire Chinese workers to run my rubber snake factory? Gosh, I was not aware.

The nonsense that immediately follows: "Google must make the necessary compromises to operate in a police state. These compromises are not pretty, but they are not necessarily corrupt." So doing business with China is dirty, but not necessarily corrupt? Or doing business with China is dirty, but making compromises to the Chinese government is not dirty? Or perhaps doing business with China is dirty, unless you're Google?

The glorious promise of the Chinese Internet: "Though terms such as freedom and democracy are censored, the Internet nevertheless makes known the Chinese people's thoughts on and responses to everything from the pain of unemployment to the exhilaration of entrepreneurship, from the frustration of urban pollution to the confusion of Internet romance." Oh Bean, that's precious.

The article makes no sense whatsoever. Except that part about urban pollution. Very frustrating.
I'm sure there are a million articles on this point out there somewhere, but why do we do business with China but not with Cuba?

I tried to Google it, but I'm in China right now and could only get articles about adorable puppies.
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