China Censorship

The US government has concerns about critical servers being housed in China as the Chinese government could potentially gain access to information on their shores. In addition the US government is concerned about human rights in China and elsewhere.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., is drafting a bill that would force Internet companies including Google, Yahoo and Microsoft to keep vital computer servers out of China and other nations the State Department deems repressive to human rights.

But let’s wait a minute here. China has been taking over manufacturing from the US for decades. The country is now our number one supplier of just about everything. Wal-Mart would virtually cease to exist if it could not get its products from China. Why is now the time to stop companies from investing in China and why Google, Microsoft and others?

Smith’s bill – still being written – has already drawn interest from another lawmaker, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., with long-held concerns about U.S. business cozying up to the Chinese government. "This is greed in high technology, and it’s not a pretty sight," Rohrabacher says.

I don’t know Dana Rohrabacher at all but what I do know is that companies like Microsoft, Yahoo and Google are publicly traded and calling them greedy actually reaffirms how they should be acting. Perhaps the more appropriate thing to call such companies is responsible. These corporations have the right to make money in any way they can as long as it is within the confines of the law. In fact they could be sued in-effect for not being greedy. They must take advantage of every opportunity they can and China is a pretty large one.

Politicians live sound bite to sound bite so it is not unusual to hear comments like this. At the same time we need to realize how crazy such comments are as the US government has allowed so many American jobs to erode while being replaced by the Chinese. We cannot function without China at this point. If corporations are so greedy and this is so bad, why not stop it in the nineties? What is it about 2006 that makes the problem so much worse? After all, China has had a terrible human rights record for many years. This is not a new phenomenon.

Perhaps Google’s plans to enter China is what this is all about. Their new portal, is live and does not allow access to many results that would be banned in China. In effect Google is helping to suppress the free flow of information.

But if you run a business in any country you must abide by local laws. The same thing happens in every country. Companies are always obliged to respond to the laws governing their region.

So why should you care? The reason is simple. China is huge and there are a lot of smart people and billions of dollars which can be used to invest in technology that can take out our top technology companies. What does the US government do if Google is supplanted by a Chinese search engine that is much more effective?

Search algorithms are able to be emulated copied and even bettered. In fact if you take a look at Korea as an example you realize that Google has only 2% market share while competitor NHN virtually controls the market through the use of superior technology. “What?,” you gasp. “Google is not invincible?” Apparently not. Google’s global market share is the sort of information the government should study carefully before restraining the trade of today’s information technology companies.

As a capitalist society we have to remember that greed is good. What is bad is when the government gets involved and mucks things up. Apparently the problem is with Chinese repression so why not try to change China? Microsoft, Yahoo and Google are certainly not going to change China’s behavior but sanctions and myriad other government-based decisions could put pressure on the massive Asian county. In the end if we really want to effect change we need to cure the disease and not just mask the symptoms.

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