Sino-Google Conflict (Part III): Of and for Free societies
Google’s threat to quit China over censorship and hacking intensified Sino-U.S. frictions. Washington said Internet control was a serious issue and demanded an explanation from Beijing. In the mean time, China has said it does not sponsor hacking. Its officials have also accused the West of seeking to undermine China’s one-Party rule by backing dissidents and campaigns against censorship. Now Google is at the heart of those tensions.
Pressing China for an explanation, U.S. Secretary of State Clinton said: “The ability to operate with confidence in cyberspace is critical in a modern society and economy.”We have been briefed by Google on these allegations, which raise very serious concerns and questions,” Clinton said in a statement in Honolulu. “We look to the Chinese government for an explanation.”Earlier, U.S. President Barack Obama, during a visit to China in November, told an online town hall that he was “a big supporter of non-censorship”.
With China the largest lender to the United States, holding $800 billion in Treasury bills, these Internet tensions will make steering this vast, fast-evolving relationship all the more tricky, especially with the U.S. Congress in an election year.
The issue was snowballing beyond Google and its problems.
On one end is the ego of the Chinese establishment: If this becomes heavily politicised, and there are signs that it is, and people in the Chinese government say, ‘This is good. It serves you right, and we won’t bow our heads to the United States, then there’ll be no way out,”
On the other, the impact on China’s image will gradually also affect the enthusiasm of investors. It’s not the pure economic losses — a billion or so — it’s the deteriorating environment
There are already pressures such as Climate, Economy, Security and Cyber-Security straining the US-Sino relations. The Google issue may yet be one of the reasons for a significant deterioration in U.S.-Chinese relations in the 2010-11.
The third angle is much more subtle: Culture and People. China is one of the major movers and shakers on the world economic, trade and political forums and yet its Human Rights record is far from normal. As a society, putting fetters to free flow of information may stunt the societal growth. China’s idea of having its own “The Truman show” would be a unviable and unsustainable experiment which could only results in a stunted society and unrest amongst the educated masses, the best representation of which is the students’ unrest which caused the Tiananmen square massacre in 1989.
The “Chinese Wall” may not be required to break but it definitely needs to allow free access of information across its borders for a better Chinese future.