A year ago today I blogged about Google pulling out of China. Google had redirected google.cn to google.com.hk. I just verified that still holds true as of this morning.
Also being reported is that China has closed 130,000 internet cafes during the last six years in an attempt to control information available to its people.
China, prominently showcased as the site of the 2008 Olympics, initially stated that Internet access would not be censored at the Olympic Village press center. However, journalists that arrived at the press center found that sites containing politically sensitive matter were inaccessible and learned that the IOC had quietly agreed to “some of the limitations.”
According to Wikipedia, China’s internet censorship does not extend to Hong Kong:
The controls come about a year after Google removed its Chinese language Internet search engine from China and relocated it to Hong Kong, where Beijing has few controls.
Now Google and China are at it again. Yesterday Google accused China of “disrupting” Gmail service saying it was due to a “government blockage.”
Beijing has long had some of the world’s strictest Internet controls. But after pro-democracy demonstrations broke out in the Middle East in January, the Chinese government seems to have intensified effort to censor Web content and disrupt Web searches related to calls for similar protests in China.
China currently blocks other social media sites so prominently featured in pro-democracy demonstrations in other countries recently like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.
Both quotes are from The New York Times.
Meanwhile, China has intensified condemnation of Libyan air strikes and Libya’s top oil official in Tripoli said that oil contracts could be offered directly to China. Along with Russia, China abstained from a U.N. resolution calling for a ceasefire in Libya. India has also criticized the attacks on Libya.
As if that wasn’t enough, China recently was targeted in the crosshairs of none other than Sarah Palin:
I personally have huge military concerns about what is going on in China. What’s with the buildup? You don’t see a tangible outside threat . . . to that country. Is that just for a defensive posture? How can that be? Stockpiling ballistic missiles, submarines, new-age ultramodern fighter aircrafts. It certainly means America needs to be vigilant looking at what China is doing.
–Sarah Palin, speaking in India, March 19, 2011 (Source.)
The destinies of the United States and China seem to be converging in a variety of ways. The question is, how will that all play out? Will we ever so pro-democracy demonstrations in China like we’ve seen in Egypt and other countries? It sure seems unlikely but 2011 has been a strange year so far. Who knows?
I had an interesting conversation with a Chinese dude about a year ago regarding the censorship and lack of rights in that country. His viewpoint was basically that he didn’t give a shit about freedom of speech, so long as he could say what he wanted to say, and what he wanted to say wasn’t to criticize the Chinese Government but rather talk about computer software and design and business finance and free market. His take on it seemed to be that the only people getting stepped on by the lack of freedom of speech were people who were saying shit they probably should’t be saying anyway. This led me to think about exactly what it was that the Chinese Government was cracking down on – mainly those who want change within China. And the Chinese Government doesn’t have a lot of tolerance for that kind of thing. Which, in general, we see as being paranoid and somewhat primitive. The Chinese Government fears losing control over the lower caste members of their society – you know, the people who actually do the work and are essentially slave labor. The growing middle class there isn’t nearly as unhappy about the situation, and appears to sanction the Government’s actions by simply keeping their mouths shut.
It kind of reminds me of the whole: “You can do anything you want, so long as I do what I tell you thing.” Followed by the, “You can say anything you want, so long as you don’t say anything I don’t like,” thing. And, I suppose, if you aren’t doing anything they don’t want or saying anything you don’t want, and life is otherwise good, then it’s like a tax or a payment. You pay fealty to your government for the right to live your life unmolested and not be tortured or stuck in a prison.
As an American, this mentality is alien, but is it cultural? China, as a country, has had this long long history of oppressive governments. They’ve never had a free society in regards to individual people being able to do and say what they want. How has this affected their culture? Maybe they’re not unhappy with their government as it is because, to a large extent, it’s never been as good as it is now as many people as it is now. Financially, they’re winning in a global game. And while a lot of that is on the backs of huge numbers of their society, there is another huge constituent that doesn’t want to upset the apple cart right now, not while they’re getting somewhere.
Thanks for the very interesting perspective into something I know actually very little about. It seems to me, though, that whether the dude knows it or not, things like a free market are very much tied to the free flow of information and freedom of speech. If not, how can the market truly be free? I think I can understand where he’s coming from even if it seems, at least to me, to be ultimately self-defeating.
Personally I would be thrilled to see a wave a pro-democracy demonstrations hit China. The level of control the government would like to exert on information is simply too unnatural to be contained. I get the feeling that if (and that’s a big if) it is something the people decide they want, it will probably eventually happen. With all of the technology in the world today, information is bit of a pandora’s box that, once opened, can’t be closed again.
Palin as provocateur of democracy in China. There’s a concept I didn’t see coming.
It’s odd, but for once I find a little bit of resonance with words coming out of her mouth. I hope to get over that soon!