Anti-China Hypocrisy in the US Congress

As soon as I heard about the congressional hearings on US Internet companies doing business in China I saw a big red flag (no, not the flag of the PRC – the metaphorical red flag). This was, I assumed, some spotlight-seeking ignoramuses looking for an excuse to hype the “China threat” rhetoric. And that’s what I still think, but even more so.

It’s usually wise to be skeptical when our elected leaders in the U.S. Congress start to proclaim their devotion to democratic ideals like free speech.

This time is no exception. The Congressional Human Rights Caucus is holding a briefing on Wednesday to look at how U.S. Internet companies are complying with Chinese government orders, and a House International Relations subcommittee has a virtually identical session planned for Feb. 15.

“It is astounding that Google, whose corporate philosophy is ‘don’t be evil,’ would enable evil by cooperating with China’s censorship policies just to make a buck,” says Rep. Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican who heads the subcommittee. “Many Chinese have suffered imprisonment and torture in the service of truth–and now Google is collaborating with their persecutors.”

If Smith and compatriot Rep. Tom Lantos, a California Democrat, were sincere in this paean to free speech, perhaps we could applaud them for a steadfast commitment to principle.

But they’re not. Smith and Lantos voted for a flag-burning amendment that flies in the face of the right to protest, a law to criminalize computer-generated images of nude minors, and the restrictions on election-related speech in the McCain-Feingold lawn that are now causing trouble for bloggers. Both voted for the Patriot Act, even though a federal judge ruled a key portion violates the First Amendment’s free speech rights. Smith also embraced a proposal to restrict the sale of violent material such as video games to anyone under the age of 18.

If we try to reconcile these votes with recent statements, we’re left with the unsettling conclusion that this pair of solons may care a great deal about free speech–but only for the Chinese, not Americans.

Or we can consider a second explanation: that they’d simply like to whip up some anti-China sentiment, and Internet censorship is a convenient excuse to do it.

“It’s really just hatred of China,” says Lew Rockwell, president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Ala. “People like Christopher Smith, the neo-conservatives, the Christian right that Christopher Smith is affiliated with, were planning a cold war against China before 9/11. They’ve just postponed it.”

So I hope no one gets sucked into this media circus. Google and Microsoft and Yahoo are ignoring the “hearings.” You should, too. (If I suspected a shred of sincerity in Smith’s soapboxing, maybe I’d think otherwise.)

The Discussion: 9 Comments

A case of not knowing the record

Richard at The Peking Duck excerpts from an surprisingly hackish article from C.Net’s Declan McCullagh which smears Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA) as “hypocritical” China-bashers who claim to care about human rig…

February 1, 2006 @ 1:34 pm | Comment

Chinese professor hits out at Google

“A Chinese media professor strongly criticised Google today for caving in to Chinese government demands that it censor its own service, saying it was damaging to the prospects for a freer press in China.
Yuen-Ying Chan said Google’s decision to offer a censored service in China was a missed opportunity to help nurture free journalism in the country and was possibly legally suspect.”,,1699909,00.html

February 1, 2006 @ 2:43 pm | Comment

“a law to criminalize computer-generated images of nude minors”

“a proposal to restrict the sale of violent material such as video games to anyone under the age of 18.”

I don’t know about you, but I see a HUGE distinction between a law that would ban ‘fake porn’, a law that would ban children from buying games that are not deisgned for children, and a law that would prevent censorship overseas.

This isn’t a case of protecting freedom with one hand and then taking it away with another. Frankly, both of those other proposed laws are in the public interest, to protect children from harm and to even begin to compare them to a law to ban complicity in censorship is just plain wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a big fan of this congressional hearing and I don’t personally believe that Congress can do anything without making a hash of it, but to use such stupid examples shows exactly how purile the American press actually is.

This is the moral equivelent of saying that a senator who wants to lower the age of gay concent is a hypocrit for trying to push through a bill gainst date rape, or a congresman pushing to ban assault weapons is wrong to also back a bill on increasing body armor for soldiers.

February 2, 2006 @ 5:16 am | Comment

I agree. If anyone can articulate how banning child pornography is equal to banning ideas of freedom and democracy, I’d like to hear it.

The only consideration is that we don’t categorize them all into “offensive and subversive” like China and then categorically eliminate them. That would be a form of issue reframing that’s so common, and truly at the expense of freedom.

February 2, 2006 @ 8:11 am | Comment

Lew Rockwell is a right-wing nut whose site,

hosts papers by Christian Reconstructionist Gary North, frothing rightist pro-China nuts like Bevin Chu, and himself argues that scientists should not be given research money, etc.


February 3, 2006 @ 7:42 pm | Comment

Interesting, Michael. Why is a right-wing nut case so eager to defend the CCP?

February 3, 2006 @ 8:56 pm | Comment

Don’t forget the wild eyed war mongering right-wingers like Cindy Sheehan and Camille Paglia on there too!

February 3, 2006 @ 11:53 pm | Comment

It’s nice that Rockwell hosts many different voices. But no one can approve of Gary North and Bevin Chu, and then call himself a supporter of freedom and democracy. That’s the difference… you can host Sheehan and Paglia and call yourself a believer in freedom. That is not that case with North, who also believes that rebellious children should be killed by their parents. Several other writers whom Rockwell supports are similarly ichy.


February 4, 2006 @ 7:47 am | Comment

Thanks for pointng this out. I had no idea. Disgusting.

February 4, 2006 @ 7:56 am | Comment

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