Thursday, January 26, 2006

A Dangerous Opportunity

 
China Google
Ah Google. It’s a business, it’s a stock, it’s a verb, it’s an access millions use every day, all over the world.

It’s also a controversy at the moment.

First of all, there is Google’s motto: “Don’t Be Evil” — which may be the most awkward use of words they could’ve chosen. Someone running across that would think, “hmmm… just what particular evil were they considering? Am I missing something?” If you’re going to choose a motto, phrase it positively — as in “Do Good” or, closer “Refrain From Evil.” But with this one, it’s only too easy to take a whack at it and end up with Don’t Be Evil… which is what any number of angry bloggers have proceeded to do since Google decided to go to China.

The controversy has essentially two sides (or three, if you count those who are indifferent. But they probably don’t count in a contretemps, do they?).

On the first side are those who are angry because they’re convinced that what Google (and Yahoo and that Big Satan, Microsoft) did is harmful to the United States and to the West and to those Chinese who will be monitored and perhaps punished, as was the case with Yahoo. Thus, by their standards, Google is a pariah and should be treated as such: divest your stock (oh, that I had some to divest!); give up using Google Ads on your blog and sacrifice the revenue therefrom; inveigh against this decision and call for a boycott.

A few well-known facts:

  • China is fiercely xenophobic.
  • China is neither a democracy or a republic.
  • China does not believe in or promote free access to information by its citizens.
  • China is fast catching up to the rest of the world in areas of technology. For example, they have trained thousands of oil and gas pipeline workers in order to be ready for the petroleum land battles that are sure to come.
  • China does not merely import military knowledge. It also uses the cultural artifacts of the West and incorporates them, unlike, say, the Middle East.
  • China’s middle class is growing exponentially.
  • China is family over the individual; the group is primary.
  • China is Confucian rather than Aristotelian or Christian (despite inroads, the state still controls the churches, at least on the surface).
  • China is immense and probably ungovernable in its present state. We may see it split over the coming century.

So there’s the other side. Some believe that Google’s decision to work within the limits imposed by the Chinese government is just the foot under the tent. As with all the West’s previous dealings with China, the latter will become more Westernized and more open as a result of the contact. Thus, we ought to welcome the idea since it means China becomes less a threat to us.

Don’t forget that China is full of young, intelligent and well-educated men — far more than it really knows what to do with since its population control policies have included the unintended consequence of millions of aborted female fetuses.

These intelligent, bored “youths” take great pleasure in hacking, just for the sheer fun of getting away with it. So guess what many of them will be doing once China has Google on board. That’s right: they’ll make Google’s entry into China the widening point of an already-growing chasm between young and old, bureaucrat and individual, son and family.

Ah, China: you have once again doomed yourself to live in interesting times.

6 comments:

Goesh said...

China will be the worlds only superpower in about 25 years. When their 3 gorge dam is completed, it will produce 9 times the power of our Hoover dam. That output will go to industrialization. China has already put a man in space and their military capability is but a few small steps behind ours. Once their industrialization doubles, they will build carriers and will have stealth technology by then. With 1.3 billion people and rapid industrialization, they will have to project military power and do it they will. In a couple of years, their cars will be flooding our markets. They have a car now that they can market for roughly 10K and they say it will last 10 years. Ford is losing 25K jobs. What do you think will replace their product? China has immense energy contracts with Iran and will get their oil, even after Iran's nukes are destroyed. China's focus in on the collective, not the individual. They don't see or have a need for the likes of OSHA and ACLU and EPA and Human Rights and Civil Rights commisssions, etc. etc. Even with expanded personal rights and freedoms of expression, the Chinse focus will remain on the collective, not the individual. They honor and revere their elders and ancestors. We shuffle our elderly off to nursing homes, out of sight and mind and we vilify many of our ancestors.We have it all wrong and have gone too far, to a point where the rights of the individual almost equal that of the collective. I hope your grandkids will like chop suey - they won't have much choice in the matter, after all, it is about all a nation of service providers can afford to eat.

Starling David Hunter said...

Dymphna wrote:

"These intelligent, bored “youths” take great pleasure in hacking, just for the sheer fun of getting away with it. So guess what many of them will be doing once China has Google on board. That’s right: they’ll make Google’s entry into China the widening point of an already-growing chasm between young and old, bureaucrat and individual, son and family."

This is the kind of thing to which I alluded when, at the end of my post, Google Kowtows, I said:

"To my mind, the only way such a "lesser of two evils" strategy can be justified is when some greater good can be foreseen to result. I've tried for a few days now and I can't figure out what that greater good is. Can you?"

While I find the scenario you pose plausible, to be sure, it is too remote and dependent upon too many other factors out of Google's control to make their decision acceptable in my mind. Even though its searche engine may end up playing a role in subverting Chinese authority, Google has also placed a tool in the hands of those authorities, and a powerful one at that. Yes, Dympha, these are interesting times!

PS: If I had to bet on what millions of young male netizens living in a country with a shortage of women will be doing on the web, it would be something other than hacking. ;-)

Wally Ballou said...

The greater good - which is coming about in China every day - is the total inability of anyone with a "real" job to take communism seriously. The reds depend primarily on force, but they also depend on a certain reserve of true believers in the population. When there are more people in California then in China who believe their twaddle, Tienanmen square will happen again, but it will be bigger, better organized, and fueled by cell pohnes and the Internet. It will be backed by the productive population against the state parasites - what's Chinese for "Atlas Shrugged?"

The perpetual pessimists among us believe that China must be kept down, becuase its growth is inevitably threatening. Maybe, but most of us don't fear India, because their political culture is far less toxic. Maybe China can change. If anyone changes it, it will be these young men.

"These intelligent, bored 'youths' take great pleasure in hacking, just for the sheer fun of getting away with it."

Hello? We have those here, too. Many of them grow up. Why the quotes? They are youths.

Why weep for the decline of traditional life in China? It hasn't helped them much so far. Confucian family values have sanctioned many centuries of oppression.

BTW, "Don't be evil" rings a bell. I think it is a reference to "Don't me mean", which is a quote from the great cult film "Buckaroo Banzai" - also the source of "laugh while you can, monkey boy"

david said...

Your simple analysis -- that Google is doing more good than harm in the long run, and that Google will help create more freedom in China -- is correct. I wish others would see it that way and stop the "boycott Google" nonsense.

Wally Ballou said...

Clarification:

I don't want to hang a halo on Google, either. I believe they are doing more good than harm, but they have also shown that their principles are extremely flexible.

They are such a self-congratulatory lot - maybe the backlash from the "no to Bush yes to China" fiasco will humble them a little.

I'm not boycotting them - I couldn't survive a day without them in my job. They are the biggest thing to hit the Internet since the browser was invented.

Brad Todd said...

I believe that Wally Ballou is on to it... The communist party is losing members big time everyday. A major reason for the loss is the book
"Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party"
You can read it here: http://www.ntdtv.com/xtr/eng/9p/Commentary_intro.html

The rapid growth of Christianity by way of the underground "house church" is a factor that can't be ignored either. A prediction that China will be the largest Christian nation on earth in a few years bodes well for everyone but the commies. Communism may well be dead and the rest of the world will have access to cheap Bibles…. The free world must just stay on China concerning human rights until the revolution comes… Google may end up being rejected for their role as bedfellow with the communist…