MacKinnon: I’m not calling for a boycott of China or Cisco

I know, I’m quoting her a lot lately, but she is the most prominent blogger on China (as a former CNN journalist there) and she has a lot to say. Today she clarifies her position on Cisco and Microsoft and other US corporations so eager to tap into the China Dream they forget about their own codes of ethics.

I am not calling for a boycott of China or of Cisco or any other companies. I am calling for closer scrutiny of exactly what is being sold directly to whom, and to what extent U.S. companies knowingly sell technologies to Chinese state-controlled entities who are obviously going to use the equipment or software for censorship and surveillance purposes. I want to know if these companies are providing service or customization which would make it clear that they know exactly how those technologies are going to be used – despite public claims of innocence and clean hands.

I agree, China is better off – and the future of democracy in China is better off – thanks to the existence of Cisco routers in China. But to me, there is an important difference between selling routers to China and providing software services to China in general – with the understanding that one can’t control how the technology ultimately gets used – and the sale of technology directly to Chine.

It’s her best post yet and there’s a lot more to it. I love the way she caps it all off:

Why does this matter? Our President says that America stands for freedom and democracy, and that we are prepared to sacrifice the lives of our men and women to uphold these values around the globe. Yet at the same time, our corporations aren’t asked to forego a penny of potential profit for the sake of these values. They dishonor our men and women in uniform and our hard-working diplomats trying to represent us under difficult and often dangerous circumstances. No wonder so many people around the world think Americans are hypocrites.

Now that is a novel idea. Ask American corporations to live up to the ideals our leader is so quick to blather on about, and maybe even ask them to make some sacrifices to show the world these ideals are more than hot air. Sacrifice profits? What planet is she living on?

The Discussion: 4 Comments

Just to add, Mackinnon was not just a journalist, but CNN Bureau Chief in both Beijing and Tokyo… I love that part about the ultimate sacrifices US forces are making around the world…

June 23, 2005 @ 11:05 am | Comment

Interesting. I will be posting my recent letter to the editor shortly.

June 23, 2005 @ 11:09 am | Comment

Yet at the same time, our corporations aren’t asked to forego a penny of potential profit for the sake of these values.

I just want to elaborate on this very important sentence.

We and many others do ask US (and other) companies to forego potential profit for the sake of social responsibility. And some actually respond. There are a number of companies (even some US ones) that are doing much work (often out of the limelight) to ensure this sort of thing doesn’t happen where they operate.

Having said that, there are – as MacKinnon points out – too many companies that really don’t understand the long term affect of simply not doing anything. The UN has been urging MNCs for some time to not only comport themeselves decently abroard, but to actively engage on human rights. A minority have started to take up the challenge, but there’s a long way to go.

June 23, 2005 @ 7:18 pm | Comment

Bravo! The best quote of the day, or probably of this year.

June 24, 2005 @ 6:28 pm | Comment

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