Sunday, March 14, 2010

Google Pulling Out of China? I've Heard Worse News

"Google '99.9%' Sure To Shut China Search Engine: Report"
Epicenter, Wired (March 13, 2010)

"Talks with China over censorship have reached an apparent impasse and Google, the world's largest search engine, is now '99.9 percent' certain to shut its Chinese search engine, the Financial Times said on Saturday.

"It said in a report on its website Google had drawn up detailed plans for closing its Chinese search engine.

"The newspaper cited a person familiar with the company's thinking as saying that, while a decision could be made very soon, Google was likely to take some time to follow through with its plans.

"That would be in order to bring about an orderly closure as the company takes steps to protect local employees from retaliation by authorities, it said...."

I have respect for the culture of China's people. The lot that's running the place now, not so much. It's likely enough that some of them think they're doing the right thing: and someone was sharp enough to not send in tanks at a recent demonstration. (Another War-on-Terror Blog (June 5, 2009))

China is, like it or not, where the powers that be killed 12 people who didn't like the way they were running things. It's all right, though, if you believe the (official) news: the dead guys were "mobsters." (Another War-on-Terror Blog (July 19, 2009)

Back to the Wired article:

"...Google shocked business and political circles in January when it threatened to pull out of China if it could not offer an unfiltered Chinese search engine. The threat came after cyber attacks originating from China on it and about 30 other firms...."

"Filtered" seems to be a polite way of saying that China's leaders wanted their subjects to see what the leaders wanted them to see - and nothing else. I think I understand their position. I don't agree with it, or think it's a good idea in the long run: but I think I understand.


"...'If you don't respect Chinese laws, you are unfriendly and irresponsible, and the consequences will be on you,' China's Minister of Industry and Information Technology, Li Yizhong, told reporters on Friday in answer to a question on what China would do if simply stopped filtering search results...."

That sounds familiar. Back in the sixties, quite a number of red-white-and-blue-blooded Americans felt much the same way about those "irresponsible" college students. A different set of people feel much the same way about journalists who don't say the 'right' things As one earnest fellow said recently, " 'truly, there should be a bar by which one goes to prison for these kinds of lies' ". (Another War-on-Terror Blog (March 9, 2010) Times change: people don't, so much. Which is another topic.

Shocked at Google's Decision? Not Really

I'm not as "shocked" as the Wired correspondent says "business and political circles" are about Google's decision. Not after the G-Mail hack became public knowledge - on top of years of cyberattacks on business and government networks around the world that 'just happened' to come from servers in China.

Quite a few people - even 'open minded' Americans - at least say that they believe freedom is a good idea, and that censorship isn't.

Given the image Google has tried to project - and to a great extent, in my opinion, has earned - of valuing the unimpeded flow of information, helping arrange for China's leaders to censor what their subjects could find online is simply bad for business.

I also think that the folks who run Google really believe what they say: and that the Chinese leadership's policies stuck in their craw.

Hacking Google's system didn't help China's bargaining position. America isn't China: and here it's not considered polite to steal from people you're doing business with.

As I said before, I think I understand the position taken by the People's Republic of China's leaders. They're committed to imposing a foreign philosophy on their subjects: many of whom have caught on that there are better ways to run a country.

If the leaders really believe that they're doing the right thing, and have enough self-righteousness, it sort of makes sense to try controlling what goes on inside the heads of their subjects - and killing the ones that can't be controlled.

Or at least making sure that they disappear.

There's More to China Than Censorship and Porno Spam

Not quite a month ago I changed the 'comment' policy on all but one of my blogs (February 16, 2010)

The reason was that I had started getting quite a few comments that were mostly links to - I think the polite term is 'adult entertainment.' Many were either partly or entirely in Chinese.

Since a fair number of folks who visit this blog probably understand that language, and may have my attitude toward pornography (I don't think it's a good idea), I wanted to both discourage spammers and shield people from the vulgar expressions.

I'm still getting 'spam' comments - and they're still very often in Chinese.

If I didn't know more about China's culture and history, it would be easy to get the impression that there wasn't much more to the country, than naughty chat rooms and young women just aching to be exploited.

China's gotten through inter-dynastic periods before. I think the chances are pretty good that the Middle Kingdom will emerge from this one, too. Which is definitely another topic.

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