America against the GFW

Written by Julen Madariaga on August 15th, 2009

I just learn from Reuters that U.S. is testing system to break foreign Web censorship. This is the first news I have that the US government is trying to outsmart the GFW. Fantastic, after the anonymous hackers now it is the most powerful state in the World that will confront the dreaded wall. The war of the internets is here again.

I am not usually supportive of external efforts to force political change in China. Democracy is like love, I say, it has to come from the inside if it is going to be true. But when it comes to breaking the GFW any help is welcome. GFW censorship is a shameful activity and it amounts to lying to the people, China deserves better than that.

Now, the only problem I see here is that the program is not looking great. I will not criticize the technical part of it, I am sure Mr. Berman has hired the best brains in Silicon Valley to ensure the solution is sound. But like in all internet applications, it is the final user’s point of view that has the last word, and from this perspective I have strong objections. Here is why I think it is dumb:

The real challenge of the GFW is not for final users to be able to access information on the web, this is already done in many easy ways, not to mention that RSS feeds are not censored and any blocked website can be read simply by opening its feed on Google Reader.

No, the real challenge is for content providers, including dissident bloggers, Chinese NGOs, discussion forums, etc. to be able to serve their content in a way that is immediately accessible to all. Because the objective of those sites is NOT to be read by their fans, but rather to spread the word into the general population. And the general population has been proven once and again too lazy to use the GFW bypasses linked above, unless it has a definite purpose to use them (usually porn).

In a nutshell: “Voice of America” is offering a service for fans of VOA to subscribe and access content that they can already access anyway. What those guys need is not to access content, but to SERVE it.

So it looks already like GFW 1 – USA 0.  I wish I could say good try, but really they are not even trying. What is this, a VOA publicity stunt? Whatever, all agencies have a budget to spend, I guess.

Sharing is free, support my work:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Digg
  • Haohao
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • LinkedIn
  • Netvibes
  • Reddit
  • Posterous
  • Live
  • QQ书签
  • MSN Reporter
  • 豆瓣
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • MySpace
  • FriendFeed
  • Print

Comments so far ↓

  1. Sep

    I also don’t think US’ attempt to bring down the GFW is very necessary in terms of transforming China into democracy. Although farmers and workers make up the big part of the population, it’s always the intellectual that determine which direction the country should go in. A lot of Chinese officials, scholars and businesemen are well exposed to the information that is censored in China, still,
    it seems that most of them are not very enthusiastic with western-style democracy. Undeniably, all the overseas Chinese could have learned enough about FLG, but, by reading the comments they made on some foreign forums, I tend to think a lot of them have little sympathy for FLG guys. The same can also be said about the “free tibet” movement.

    So it is like that the more a Chinese(I mean the well-educated ones) learn about it, the more “nationalistic” he or she becomes. This certainly runs counter to the west’s goal.

    The fundamental reason , in my opinion,is not a lack of uncensored information, but a different understanding and approach. Chinese people and the western people don’t share same values, I mean we don’t agree completely with each other in terms of what is good and how to achieve it. But, I think we do share something in common: we are all human beings.

    [Reply to this comment]

  2. Sep

    I have heard before this kind of reasoning, and I know very well that some (not all!) of the Chinese educated youth think this way. In my opinion it doesn’t make much sense.

    THEY are essentially saying that:

    1- “Democracy in China” is the West’s goal, and
    2- therefore, since THEY are upset because of the opinion of some Western people about Tibet, etc.
    3- then THEY don’t want democracy anymore!

    But this whole line of argument, apart from being ridiculously emotional for such a serious issue, is also flawed. Because:

    1- Democracy in the World is NOT the West’s goal. It is the goal of some idealists, but look seriously at the USA’s actions and you will see that it is far from being the true objective of its Foreign policy. A stable and rich China with cosy leaders is more like it.

    2- The free media will criticize China about many things, no matter if you are a democracy or not. So what, it happens to all countries once in a while, learn to live with it. By opening up and showing the truth you control much better the World opinion than by closing all doors (see Western media reactions to Urumqi’09 vs Tibet’08).

    3- When you think of democracy, forget about the US for a second and think whether it (or which parts of it) would be beneficial for the Chinese people. Some parts are obviously beneficial, like the Rule of Law, transparence and reduction of censorship.

    Finally, the discussion about democracy in China is very serious and can affect the lives of millions of laobaixing; to base it on the juvenile nationalistic tantrums of a bunch of rich kids is selfish and immature, to say the least.

    [Reply to this comment]

  3. Sep

    It seems you don’t quite understand what I’m saying, even put words in my mouth. (I wish it’s not because of my terrible English skill.) I didn’t say “I don’t want democracy anymore”. I’m saying Chinese people have a different understanding of what is good(democracy,human rights,freedom) and a different approach to handle these issues. For example, the west regards the one-child policy as an inhuman one, but Chinese think it’s crucial to the survial of the country You’re not supposed to assume that I would be so narrow-minded as to object the idea of rule of law, transparency, etc just because I’m upset “because of the opinion of some Western people about Tibet”. I’m above that, so are the Chinese people, even including the “fengqing”. You are so emotional that you just react to my comment the way I’m very familiar with. I feel a little bit disappointed. Why would you always think that whoever disagree with you must belong to the group of “a bunch of rich kids”? So all the people I mentioned in my previous comment (those sholars, businessmen,those who took to the streets in US to protest against CNN) are just “a bunch of rich kids”?

    “Democracy in the World is NOT the West’s goal”
    This the most unbelievable claim I’ve ever heard, I would be very appreciative if you can prove it.

    [Reply to this comment]

  4. Sep

    1- Sorry if I misunderstood your position. My previous comment was addressed to the “fenqing” who follow the 1-2-3 reasoning. I edit my comment and change “you” for “them”.

    2- Sincerely I wish democracy in the World was the goal of Western powers. Sadly, it is not. The real goal is to maintain their power and ensure favourable conditions to their economy. Very similar to China’s own goals in foreign policy - except that the West tends to be more agressive.

    Just think of it: if democracy really was a priority then why protect all those African dictators, the Saudi Arabian family-state, etc. ?

    I wish you were right in this point, but I find it hard to believe. Most of the times the West uses the word “democracy” only as a means to put pressure on China, not as a real fundamental objective.

    [Reply to this comment]

Leave a Comment