Need more reasons to hate Microsoft?

China Hand Rebeca McKinnon tears Microsoft’s hyperactive blogger Robert Scoble a new one (deservedly) over his “see-no-evil” attitude toward Microsoft’s censoring of key words in blogs (you know, really dangerous words like “democracy”).

I lived in China for nine years straight as a journalist, and if you add up other times I’ve lived there it comes to nearly 12. I don’t know what students and professors Scoble met with, and what context he met them in. But to state that Chinese students and professors have an “anti-free-speech stance” is the biggest pile of horseshit about China I’ve come across in quite some time. And believe me, there are a great many such piles out there these days.

In my experience, most Chinese, like all other human beings I’ve ever met, would very much like to have freedom of speech. This goes for students, professors, workers, farmers, retirees, religious practitioners, and even many government officials. Many said so to me in on-the-record interviews. Many more told me so privately, in trusted confidence over beers (or something stronger) among friends.

There is a ton of links here about the Great Firewall and Chinese bloggers, so take a look. And as usual, Rebecca’s observations about the Chinese people are right-on. (I’m so tired of CCP supporters telling me the Chinese don’t care about freedom.)

Update: The mainstream media are finally picking up this story. What took them so long?

The Discussion: 9 Comments

Give it a break. I don’t see you raging against a whole host of other companies that do far worse things in this world. I hope you don’t buy Kraft snacks because then you are supporting a cigarette company. I hope you don’t buy cars because you are supporting companies that are fighting efforts to keep the environment clean. I hope you don’t use any pharmaceuticals because you are supporting companies that withold the capability to help millions in impoverished nations.

I saw your previous post about how you didn’t want to buy Microsoft after they withdrew support for a bill regarding sexual orientation discrimination. Do you think any company that isn’t involved with helping move this type of thing forward is going to step in to help now? I can tell you my job which concerns this type of thing is immeasurably harder now that people jumped over Microsoft.

Get off your high horse. It kills your credibility.

June 14, 2005 @ 12:38 pm | Comment

There must be a lot of people with zero credibility, Tina — did you see all those comments to Scoble about his post, from very, very smart people? And did you read McKinnon’s post? You make it sound like this is just me! Microsoft threw themselves to the shark and I’m just a lowly member of a rapidly swelling chorus.

And on the gay issue, I am thrilled to tell you that because of posts like mine, led by Americablog of course, Microsoft actually changed its position! We won. So please, don’t tell me to be silent.

I’ve knocked other companies that support the Great Firewall, like Cisco. I take an equal oportunity approach. Thanks.

June 14, 2005 @ 12:45 pm | Comment

I think the point she’s trying to make is you may have won the battle (reversal of MSFT) at the expense of the losing the war (broad support).

June 14, 2005 @ 2:37 pm | Comment

Devon, I’m not sure how you ended up here, but I want you to know I just took a look at your now-discontinued blog. My God — that is the most raw, agonized blogging I think I have ever seen. I hope things have taken a better turn for you. And you should start blogging again; it can be therapeutic, and you are really good at it.

June 14, 2005 @ 2:44 pm | Comment

Hey, MSN China Bloggers: Your Censored Words are Here!

June 14, 2005 @ 11:03 pm | Comment

First time commenting here. I’m Chinese living in Vancouver, Canada. I was born in Hong Kong, lived in Chaozhou, and grew up in Canada.

Anyway, you know, a lot of foreigners, whether they have been to China or not, are very concerned about human rights and freedom of speech. In general, it is true — many people in China would prefer a more open environment.

On the other hand, democracy, freedom of speech, human rights and so forth — these values, although often useful, aren’t always the most important things there are. I believe I speak for my compatriots — the Chinese people would much rather have a strong China than a free China.

There is something big countries have which small countries don’t — ambition. A lot of foreigners miss that when they study China. If the past two centuries have taught us anything, it’s that moral superiority has little meaning. You don’t have to look that far back. Just look at the CIA-funded anti-Chinese Soeharto regime, or the recent Belgrade embassy bombing incident, or even the way the West is reneging on its promises to lift tariff on Chinese goods.

Strength, it’s a combination of economic resources and military prowess. It is my dream, and the dream of my compatriots, that in our lifetime, China will regain the world throne and become the number-one superpower. Even if that doesn’t happen, the last thing we want is for foreign powers to meddle in our politics.

For the West, democracy and freedom of speech are ends in themselves. In the Chinese worldview, these institutions are but tools to achieve greater goals. Many Chinese people may advocate the concept of regional democracy. Few would prefer democracy over economic stability and military supremacy.

Our country rests on intersecting political faultlines. To the East, our perennial rival Japan, the extended arm of America. To the South, we have our beloved SEA neighbours, none of which does not have entrenched anti-Chinese policies (except Singapore). In the West, there is the rising power of India, as well as the political unstable Middle East. In the North, the great polar bear has suffered a temporary setback. Yet still it occupies Outer Manchuria and controls Mongolia. Of course last but not least there’s Taiwan — a direct measure of American insincerity.

You know, we all want peace and prosperity. The whole world wants peace and prosperity. The truth is, all top-level world powers operate in anarchy. Sooner or later the United Nations will be dissolved. Then all hell will break loose. The less powerful the US is, the more powerful China will be. Conversely, the more powerful the US Is, the less powerful China will be.

Anyway, if you go to China looking for democrats, then all you will find are democrats. If you go looking for republicans, then all you will find are republicans. Having lived in China for 12 years does not imply understanding. I have lived in both West and East for nearly the same amount of time. It gives you a whole different perspective on things.

There’s one thing foreigners should be aware of. Not all Chinese people know how to speak with foreigners. Only a subset of the population enjoys the company of foreigners. And when there is communication, often it is modified because of the presence of a foreign participant. When I lived in Beijing, I hung around Sanlitun with foreign workers all the time. Just because I smoked sheesha doesn’t mean all Chinese smoke sheesha. Just because I drank whiskey doesn’t mean all Chinese like whiskey. And this of course extends into politics. If I were not particularly tight with a person, I would not jeopardize the friendship by appearing too nationalist. Even if I were tight with someone, I would prefer not to argue over the Iraqi War.

As for the “anti-free-speech stance,” my parents definitely had it. Compared to foreign teachers, Chinese teachers have more of it. I have it when I’m in China; I don’t when I’m not. I guess all I’m saying is — strive for objectivity, and you shall see the truth. Cultural differences do exist, and are often greater than you may think.

June 15, 2005 @ 2:36 am | Comment

microsoft gets plight in china. what’s the next step

June 15, 2005 @ 6:27 am | Comment

Concerning MSN’s explanation that it “abides by the laws, regulations and norms of each country in which it operates”; does this mean it would have seen nothing wrong putting in place anti-semitic measures were it drumming up busines in Nazi Germany?

June 16, 2005 @ 8:32 pm | Comment

Keir, great point; IBM made millions selling devices to the Nazis that allowed them to keep count of captive Jews. But it was “strictly a business decision.” They were simply conforming to German laws.

June 16, 2005 @ 9:05 pm | Comment

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