CNReviews contra Chinayouren

A fascinating debate.

Kudos to Kai Pan for all the work he did in laying out his argument. The winner, however, is Chinayouren.

“Freedom of choice” sounds wonderful. It sounds a little less wonderful when it’s “freedom of manipulated choice.”

Update: I’d like to point out a new comment in an earlier thread that includes the commenter’s 2002 dissertation on the GFW (PDF file). Very interesting, especially the opening quote by Bill Clinton. Boy, was he wrong.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 14 Comments

“Freedom of choice” sounds wonderful. It sounds a little less wonderful when it’s “freedom of manipulated choice.”

Such mental contortions… I wonder how many of this guys get an stroke after such extraneous efforts.

This guys have not ever hear of Occam’s Razor.

” entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem”
” entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity”

i.e. The simplest explanation is the best.

January 24, 2010 @ 4:07 am | Comment

Well said. Some bloggers have turned parsing and extrapolating into a fine art.

This is the comment I just left for Kai:

I have to disagree. First, since the results are manipulated and the deck well stacked, it won’t leave such a terrible void in most Chinese people’s lives. The market will fill that void soon enough if it’s so gaping. Second, if google does indeed end up leaving China (a big if) it will do far more than merely cause Westerners some brief self-satisfaction. It will create a serious dilemma for other companies doing business with China and will force the world to rethink what it means to cooperate with China. I’m not saying that these are necessarily good things, but they would almost certainly happen. It would create all sorts of issues among China’s educated classes, whose support China counts on. There would have to be considerable loss of face for China as well, though it’s hard to say how much they care about that.

So while it would be a shame for the Chinese who use google to be deprived of a choice, no matter how manipulated and bastardized it may be, the greater effect would be on China’s reputation both among its own citizens and among the global community China has been eagerly courting. It would be a painful step backwards. Compared to this full-frontal assault on China’s reputation, the “self-satisfaction” that may be felt by some Westerners can only be described as trivial.

January 24, 2010 @ 4:26 am | Comment

According to Kai, Google owes the people in China some freedom and choice when Google decides to stop censoring itself and risks having Google blocked by the Chinese govt. So, the guilty one is Google, not the Chinese govt.

Being in a situation similar to that of the American Negros in the 60′s, the people in China are subjected to the second or third class status by their govt, with the Negros having to sit in the back of the bus and the Chinese people having to accept the censored version of Google. The difference is that the Blacks would rather boycott the bus service than be humiliated and sit in the back of the bus, but the people in China are just the opposite. They are afraid of losing their inferior status and try to keep it. They would rather continue to use the mutilated version of Google than fight for their right to access Google as freely as anyone else.

No one, including Google, has to be responsible for providing the people in China with any kind of freedom or choice. They are responsible for fighting for their freedom and rights themselves. No one can help them, if they don’t want to help themselves.

January 24, 2010 @ 10:26 am | Comment

[...] of The Peking Duck left a comment (and a blog post) responding to my previous post about the Google affair, “Google In China Is Better Than No [...]

January 24, 2010 @ 2:21 pm | Pingback

Richard, thanks for that. I really liked the link to that study with the initial quote of Clinton. I admit I didn’t read the whole pdf, but only for that quote the paper is pure gold! Good find!

January 24, 2010 @ 2:58 pm | Comment

If this is not hypocrisy and irony, then I don’t know what is:

http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=389×7557923

“Did you know that the US Government requires email providers have a back door access system so they can get in there on their own?

Hillary was getting on China’s case for this hack that took place, with valid reasons. But when you point the finger, remember three more are pointing back at yourself. The real story here may be that the incident revealed a requirement by the US Government that enables the FBI to get direct access to anyone’s email. Did someone say 1984?”

“..snip
In order to comply with government search warrants on user data, Google created a backdoor access system into Gmail accounts. This feature is what the Chinese hackers exploited to gain access.

China’s hackers subverted the access system Google put in place to comply with U.S. intercept orders.

In the aftermath of Google’s announcement, some members of Congress are reviving a bill banning U.S. tech companies from working with governments that digitally spy on their citizens. Presumably, those legislators don’t understand that their own government is on the list.

January 25, 2010 @ 8:22 am | Comment

I take it the irony you are referring to is that the Chinese used the backdoor requested by the US govt, not the irony that this piece of news comes to you courtesy of an American news site…uncensored by the US state? ;-)

January 25, 2010 @ 9:16 am | Comment

I take it the irony you are referring to is that the Chinese used the backdoor requested by the US govt, not the irony that this piece of news comes to you courtesy of an American news site…uncensored by the US state?

Actually, I found out about the google accusing China of hacking news on Chinese CCTV, uncensored. Hahhaha. And also ironic, I always knew Chinese email providers have backdoors for Chinese security services, also found that out on Chinese forums, uncensored. But Americans find out about their gov’t backdoor from Chinese gov’t, hahahahaha.

Oh so many ironies!

January 25, 2010 @ 9:36 am | Comment

Wrong again, HX. It’s right there on CNN.

January 25, 2010 @ 10:17 am | Comment

CNN -> China News Network? ;-)

Hahahaha, oh so many ironies indeed :-D

January 25, 2010 @ 10:23 am | Comment

Baidu Promotes Google Translate

http://www.chinainternetwatch.com/499/baidu-promotes-google-translate/

“Baidu has a page http://life.baidu.com showing different types of search services such as hotel search, stock info, mobile phone info, calendar search…

One of the tool shown on the page is translation where Baidu simply embeds Google Translate box. Is Baidu too generous to its competitor? Or, is it desperate for a translator tool?”

January 25, 2010 @ 11:04 am | Comment

@richard
The internet+computer revolution do play in the evolution a role with totalitarian and authoritarian regimes.

It has made life for totalitarian regimes almost impossible. Yes a totalitarian regime may choose to continue its extreme control over society and access to information… at the risk of falling too far behind in technology development.

The compromise seems to evolve to authoritarian regimes, maybe with some totalitarians quirks here and there. But even so, the new totalitarian regimes has to go through extraneous efforts to control the flow of information, both through infrastructure measures and repression methods.

The balance is delicate. How much to control? Too few control and things can get out of hand. Too much and the benefits of information flow for the development of the country could be thwarted.

And even if they stroke with the right balance ( a difficult and ever moving target) it is done at the cost of gross inefficiencies.

Also one of the greatest weaknesses is not solve: It is next to impossible to create breaking technologies and make it available to the public. They have to play second, third on even fourth player without end.

If the microcomputer, internet, GPS and many other technologies had been created in totalitarian/authoritarian regimes where do you think they would be know? How would them have been developed?
In fact they could have been invented, but no effect whatsoever compared with what has been achieved today.

Still, it is a great improvement. I still remember the times when permission was required in the soviet union to use… a Xerox machine
I was once also been told , in a medical research facility, the story of a researcher from Cuba at his struggles with the mouse and computer interfaces (you need special permission to get computers in Cuba… and mobile phones)

These regimes evolves, are forced to evolve, even against their liking. Not to the rosy future some would like, but to something relative better than the past. The cage is still a cage, but with more room and better amenities.

From the technology side? Mostly providers of cheap produce to the benefit of others. Not because they are not able to do something else, but because they are prevented from doing by their own ruling system.

January 25, 2010 @ 4:03 pm | Comment

I agree with the line that Chinese users won’t be losing out much given Google is already censoring results. Better to stop giving the impression that it’s a comprehensive set of results by pulling out.

Another good post from Uln.

January 25, 2010 @ 10:01 pm | Comment

I encourage everyone to read the book, “Beyond Tiananmen: The Politics of U.S.-China Relations.” I was just about to finish the book when Google decided the U.S. policy of engagement with China was corrupt.

January 26, 2010 @ 2:33 am | Comment

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