Google stands to lose
its (perhaps faltering) business in China by storming out of the country. What's at stake for China? Commentators have turned from the broader implications
of the tech leviathan's clash with the coveted market, to exploring the historical and political repercussions of a Google pull-out. Here's what China stands to lose:
- Lose Face, Information, says the Atlantic's China go-to man James Fallows. If Google leaves, it will be "lose-lose-lose--for Google (outside the Chinese market), for the
Chinese government (publicly embarrassed, which will bring out worse
rather than better tendencies), and for the Chinese public
(symbolically cut off that much more from the mainstream of modern
development, and with an internet ecology worse than it could be, with
the absence of a major innovative competitor)."
- Lose Capitalism--Like Spain Back in the Protestant Reformation One of Fallows's readers
offers an interesting historical analogy regarding Catholic countries'
censorship in response to the introduction of the printing press:" in
less than 50 years, in the Protestant countries, where the
press was not controlled, people of the crafts-producing class were
able to become literate and change the way they produced goods. Over
time this new way of producing goods became capitalism." The Catholic
countries lost out on this transformation, while Protestant countries
like Holland and England went on to take over the international scene.The reader muses that perhaps "China, having made Spain's decision to
control information, is now out of the running for world leadership."
- Lose Coherence In his opinion shift on Chinese autocracy--giggled at elsewhere on the Wire--Tom Friedman very reasonably points out that the contradictions between China's "three impulses--control flows for political reasons, maintain 20th-century Command
Chinese factories for employment reasons and expand 21st-century
Network China for growth reasons"--could "undermine" all of these goals. Google, a challenge to the "control flows" impulse but an asset to "Network China," brings up just such a contradiction.
- Another Step in a Counterproductive Civilization Clash The attack on Google had "nothing to do with persecuting dissidents and everything to do with
Beijing's desire to catch up and overtake the West as quickly and cheaply as
possible," argues Dominic Lawson
in the London Times.
Nor is China embarrassed by technology and intellectual copyright
theft, he contends, looking at the history of the past few centuries:
"At bottom [the Chinese] feel that we stole their place in the sun and
whatever chicanery they use to restore their position--as it was before
the industrial revolution left them in our wake--is nothing whatever to
be ashamed of." The problem with this approach, according to Lawson:
When civilisations clash there is generally only one winner. History, rather
than today's commentators, will record the ultimate outcome of this
ideological conflict between free expression and thought control. My money
is not on the Chinese Communist party, despite all its genius for
Want to add to this story? Let us know in comments
or send an email to the author at
hhorn at theatlantic dot com.
You can share ideas for stories on the Open Wire.