Google has left China. Amid the hand-wringing over possible consequences
several prominent commentators are saying the Google-China conflict
was--and is, and will be--much bigger than just a matter of Google and
China. That's certainly the way Google would like it painted, as they
continue their public relations push
But these commentators aren't just carrying water for the corporate
giant. Here's why they think the conflict has larger significance.
- It's a 'Defining Story of Our Time,' declares Timothy Garton Ash. He talks about freedom of
information, and points out that people sometimes, even in "free"
societies, choose filtered, biased information, for example in the case
of cable news. "The crucial contrast to China is, of course, that
Americans have a choice." He lays out four models for information flow:
(1) state control, (2) "the big companies I rely on (Google, Yahoo,
Baidu, Microsoft, Apple, China Mobile) select what I see," (3) total
freedom, including for "jihadist propaganda, bomb-making instructions
... child pornography," and (4) total freedom, "except for that limited
set of things which clear, explicit global rules specify should not be
available. The job of states, companies and netizens is then to enforce
those international norms." His assessment:
At the moment,
we have a combination of (1) and (2). Developments in technology will
give us more of (3), whether we like it or not. (4) currently looks
like a pipe dream. Nonetheless, it is to (4) that we should aspire.
- Part of Larger U.S.-China Conflict Shaping Up In the Guardian, Simon Tisdall
looks at the "widening, multifaceted political confrontation between
the US and China's increasingly assertive communist government."
Hillary Clinton's new eagerness to confront China over internet
censorship, he says, "coincides with a string of other flashpoints in
bilateral relations, ranging from Taiwan to Tibet to tyres." He flags
trade issues as one important component.
- Draws Line in Sand for Other Companies Boingboing's Xeni Jardin
is one of many to notice domain registration company GoDaddy's Chinese
withdrawal. "The move could be symbolically significant: they're the
world's largest domain registration company." Over at Foreign Policy, Thomas Ricks
praises both Google and GoDaddy and takes the opportunity to ask a
question of Microsoft and IBM: "Which side of the Great Firewall are
you on, boys?" Ernie Smith agrees that the withdrawals only need "one more and it's a trend," while Mike Elgan at ItWorld thinks he's identified the most likely "one more"--Yahoo's next, he decides.
- Contradicts Idea of China on Path to Freedom The New Yorker's Evan Osnos
reports from China that not much has changed with Google's departure,
but that "many of us [American ex-pats] have fashioned an image of a
country that is moving--in its own shambling pattern of fits and
starts--toward something better for itself and the world.." But the
casual ditching of the "global citizen," he says, makes China look
"less like a calculatingly pragmatic steward of its people’s interests
and more like an addled Goliath." The Atlantic's James Fallows,
interviewing Google's David Drummond, turns up a similar view: Drummond
says that, from the original hacking of Gmail accounts to increased
censorship following the Beijing Olympics, "more
and more pressure has been put on us. It has gotten appreciably worse--and not just for us, for other internet companies too."
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