“Impose trade sanctions on Google-China deal”

Oh dear. Isn’t this going just a bit far for a nation that’s all about free trade and making our own decisions? And if we do as Lipscomb suggests, what’s next? Surely we can find excuses to punish every company in bed with the CCP, like KFC, WalMart and just about every other American business. Here’s his thinking:

Google is perverting its own wonderful market leading search technology, that opens up the resources of the entire internet to everyone, into becoming the world’s most efficient censorship machine. And it is doing this so it can get even richer by gaining access to the fastest growing internet marketplace in the world. China is now second with over 100 million users and will soon to surpass the United States and become the largest internet market in the world.

In spite of Google’s aging hippie rhetoric on its website about “Do No Evil,” there can’t be anything much more evil than helping a totalitarian regime, that once brainwashed captured United States POW’s during the Korean War, brainwash its own citizens more efficiently. Political analyst Ralph Peters puts it perfectly: “Forget all the new-age-has-dawned rhetoric: Google agreed to turn the information superhighway into a prison corridor (while posturing about freedom of information back home in the USA). Google hasn’t simply betrayed American interests — its executives have betrayed the aspirations of a billion Chinese, reducing them to just more digits in Google’s digital universe.”

For many years the State Department in coordination with the Department of Defense has been clearing or denying exports of hi-tech hardware or software that might have “dual-use” capabilities that could threaten the security of the United States. Normally this is applied to products with military applications, but one of the problems with it has always been the wide range of discretion the government has in exercising its powers made its decisions unpredictable to American business.

…If the Bush Administration and GOP-led Congress continue to do nothing in the face of open defiance by American high tech companies like Google who wish to sell the new tools of oppression to authoritarian governments, there is no doubt that they will be “complicit in the oppression of others” as well.

The Bush Administration should immediately ask for an ongoing review of Google’s or any other American high technology company’s exports that in its opinion may threaten the national security of the United States by adding a useful tool for oppression to the arsenal of the tyrannies we say we oppose. If it fails to, Congress should remember the Jackson-Vanik Act it passed which did so much to help liberate the former Soviet Union.

I cited an earlier Lipscomb article some days ago, which I found far more level-headed. This one goes way too far. He never mentions that most Chinese are grateful for Google’s censored search engine, and might be worse off if it were taken away.

Okay, last post of the day.

The Discussion: 10 Comments

The man doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Software export is very controlled.

Regarding this particular article, I see no case made for how the availability of filtered search results from Google in China threatens the security of the United States. Perhaps because there isn’t one.

Also, he failed to do the most basic research, and his article was never checked by anyone. One quick example:

…aging hippie rhetoric on its website about “Do No Evil,”…

“Do no evil” is from 2 Corinthians 13:7, not “aging hippy rhetoric”.

It takes a minimum of three links from the home page (and you have to know exactly where you’re going) to get to the “Code of Conduct”, in which they mention that the informal motto is “Don’t be evil”, not “Do no evil”.

February 4, 2006 @ 8:38 pm | Comment

While I agree that calling the link to american interests is very very thin and indirect, I’d still say that censorship on Google sucks more than anything KFC or WalMart can do.

February 4, 2006 @ 9:11 pm | Comment

what does KFC do?

February 4, 2006 @ 11:50 pm | Comment

“what does KFC do?”

They won’t reveal the secret herbs and spices. How can they presume to represent the free world to the people of China?

February 5, 2006 @ 8:36 am | Comment

Here is a comment I also posted on Simon World:

I think we in the West had better start to tone down on all our shouting on the freedom and democracy stuff, because of lately I haven’t seen much happening in the name of those ideals that make me feel proud. Iraq may be the most noteworthy example, but the record is even worse for what is NOT happening. Why are we inclined to “liberate” the Iraqi’s, but are we OK with watching at the sidelines while f.i. in Congo a couple of millions have been butchered by now ? What will we do in Palestine, with the Hamas victory now ? Democratically elected, but we will cut your financial support after all since you happen to have a fight with your neighbour, killing your people and refusing you to take possession of the ground you live on but who for some reason happens to be our friend. Sorry for that !
Coming back to the Google issue, with all that shouting from the West going on, the “freedom and democracy angle” is quickly becoming the standard benchmark to look at all the issues. Is it good business sense what Google did ? Of course it is. Are Google and Yahoo pioneering a new way of doing business with difficult regimes ? Hardly. Working for a telecom company myself, I know that all the major ones working in the so-called vertical markets have and are providing switches with a feature called “lawful intercept” to police departments worldwide. And what it is used for you think ? Anybody dare to believe that we control the laws defining the circumstances under which it can be used ? Dream on. Has it been sold in China ? You bet it has, so our “don’t be evil” friends are in a major league of companies all making good business sense and that’s what companies are for: they have to generate money to keep our societies running, whether we like the morals of it or not.

What strikes me is the lot of people trying to fit Google’s principal decision to censor some searchresults into a strategy to lead freedom and democracy to victory. All I can make out of it is a company kowtowing to a regime you would not accept in your own country and thereby condoning the rightfulness of censorship. I pity the Chinese media organizations that are trying to walk a thin line who will now be told that not only their inland peers are exercising “self-constraint”, but hey, even the Westerners do so. Google, in my opinion, is doing a bad service to Western companies looking to do business in China , because they have just shown the CCP that it not only can require you to abide by some perverse rules, but that it actually also can be implemented. So expect the business climate to worsen.

February 5, 2006 @ 10:27 am | Comment

Lao Lu, I don’t necessarily disagree with you. As I’ve said in all my other posts on this episode, Google can never again make it’s claims of not being evil. But I also note that they’re doing what most other companies are doing and that it shouldn’t surprise us. It’s a sad statement about American businesses, though it might bering some benefits to Chinese surfers who want faster, easier searches – with very Chinese characteristics. At least Google is upfront about those characteristics, i.e., censorship and manipulation.

To Emile’s claim that Google is doing worse things than WalMart, I can only say maybe. WalMart sells many products produced in conditions close to the Western definition of slave labor. Not always; a lot of the factories have gotten better, even emulating the standards of more developed nations. But there’s enough there to be concerned about, like the jewelry they sell that comes to us real cheap, thanks to the poor young miners who die breathing in the lethal gold dust. How evil can you get? Determining which companies take the cake for evil is a tough exercise, with lots of nominees in competition.

February 5, 2006 @ 11:25 am | Comment


I am not in the least surprised by what Google did, because, as I said in my post, they’re only followers in a line of companies that have done similar things before them. What I retain from the episode is that we are behaving very confused in the West and apparently don’t know how to deal with it. We are being held accountable for our words and we fail the test. What gives me the better feeling is that at least we ARE still keeping ourselves accountable, the debate IS being held and that that is mostly not the case on the other side of the “freedom of speech”-divide.

And for the rest: who ever in Google came up with the idea to have a motto that says “Don’t be evil”? Hadn’t they better change it to “Don’t be stupid” ? 🙂

February 5, 2006 @ 11:49 am | Comment

We agree on all points. As I’ve said from the beginning, this is an American issue, not Chinese. The Chinese don’t care about the censorship, which is part of their daily lives. The issue is how far US companies can/should go in appeasing polices that run counter to our values. But values are out. Pleasing shareholders is in. Any talk about values is perceived as dreamy, squishy and rather stupid. For all our fancy talk about taking our values to the lands of the oppressed, we are actually getting worse in this regard.

February 5, 2006 @ 12:09 pm | Comment


Good point!

I have been following up on this story recently – seems to me China has just driven a very large wedge between American companies and their government without doing anything.

These folks in Beijing are not dumb.

February 5, 2006 @ 12:57 pm | Comment

Wouldn’t it just be more moral for America to stop selling arms to agressive regimes?

February 6, 2006 @ 9:24 am | Comment

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