This little piece by historian Hong Zhenkuai has been taken down from the Southern Metropolis, but it has managed to escape the censors on some other sites. I liked the subtle way Hong criticizes the reigning CCP dynasty, and the cool Chinese rendering of “L’Etat c’est moi” as “朕即国家“.
Since I don’t have the time for Language Thursdays today, I have done this bit of translation work:
The French Bourbon king Louis XIV reportedly said “L’etat c’est moi” . Even if all the World’s sovereigns love autocracy, few of them would say it so openly. Louis XIV ruled from 1643 to 1715, the same period as China’s Kangxi. Kangxi’s thought was probably not unlike “L’etat c’est moi”, but clearly he had more “wisdom with Chinese characteristics” than Louis XIV – he did a lot of “humane actions”, thus earning a reputation of humane Lord while still ruling as a dictator.
In the ideas of the Sovereign People, the sovereignty belongs to the people and it is not “L’Etat c’est moi” but rather “L’Etat is us“. Of course this kind of ideas only appeared after Louis XIV’s death. In his age there were not many in the World who could tell the difference between the notions of sovereign, government and State. In China, even if the pre-Qin philosopher Mencius said: “first the people, then the State then the monarch”, in fact in the 2000+ years since the Qin and the Han, Patriotism has meant Loyalty to the Monarch, and these two concepts are muddled. Click to continue »
Han Han has been nominated for the Time’s most Influential People, and pushed by the millions of Chinese netizens, he is quickly ascending to a likely Number 1. Xujun Eberlein has done a good analysis of the situation, particularly the disgusting way that the People’s Daily and the Shanghai Daily are trying to downplay and oppose Han Han’s election - and ironically helping him to get more votes.
I found the article on Shanghai Daily revolting. The one on the PD is so obviously unprofessional that it’s harmless, after all this is not a real newspaper. But the ShD, what is wrong with these people? What orders are they following from above, to cast Han in this light? The critique by R. Zhou we commented last year was at least intelligent and it had a point, but this clown writing on the ShD sounds like a clueless mouthpiece at the service of the party.
First of all, regarding the books, everybody knows that Han is not doing great literature. For the outside World, his work is largely untranslatable and devoid of meaning, which explains why he is not known in the West. But even for the Chinese readers he has little to offer today. His most successful novel is a juvenile rant packed with High School inside jokes that are only funny for spotty teenagers. His initial critique of the education system was sharp and well-aimed, but since then he has failed to develop into an adult author. Click to continue »
How many times have we seen the discussion on China forums about what exactly is Soft Power? That mysterious force of the white side that the Jedi use in international politics, turning all arguments to their advantage? China has coveted this weapon for years and spent many a valuable resource in its quest, but all to no avail, to the point that some have started to doubt the very existence of the Force.
Well, for those who doubted, here you have the proof. Get the solid worldwide reputation of Google Inc. for non-evilness, add an American president that enjoys public support in almost every corner of the World, and you can assemble a Megaton soft bomb with the power to break through all the conventions of international politics. That is exactly what Google’s actions represent today, and for the time being they are obtaining the expected support outside of China. Click to continue »
So Google has done it finally. My worst predictions have turned out to be right, and Google.cn is living on in exile, challenging the authority of the Chinese government from Hong Kong. Speak of burning the bridges.
Like usual, most of the commentators our there got it all wrong. This is not about Google offering an open service to the Chinese from outside. If Google wanted to do that, they would quietly close down Google.cn and continue with their HK search site as they were already doing before. There is nothing new on this Google HK except the translation of the interface to simplified mandarin, a simple tweak that has little impact on usability for mainland netizens.
If Google really wanted the Chinese to enjoy free search, they could have tried to give some face to the Chinese government, instead of literally forcing it to retaliation.
But Google HK is obviously not a sustainable plan, it is just a gesture, an open challenge to the authority of the CCP. The redirection to this site and the welcoming message in simplified is clear enough in this respect: “welcome to the New page of Google search in China”. Take that, Beijing, we don’t give a damn what you say, anti-democratic freak. Click to continue »
I just finished reading that book 蚁族 (Ant Tribe) that is all over the place on the Chinese internet. I was curious why it was becoming so hot here while Western media covered it only briefly. I think I know the answer now, but let me introduce the book first and more on this later.
蚁族 (Ant Tribe) is a term coined by the authors to refer to the masses of young university graduates from the provinces that struggle to survive in the Chinese big cities, living in cramped “Ant nests” in the outskirts, and taking unstable and underpaid jobs that are often not related to their studies.
This social group has sometimes caught international attention, especially during the 2009 crisis, when many papers sent their correspondents to interview jobless students, and pundits even saw there the seeds of a new Tiananmen. But it is Beijing Uni doctorate Lian Si who directed in 2008/09 the first comprehensive study, and “Ant Tribe” is a collection of some of his most interesting results, repackaged for the big public. Click to continue »
Disclaimer: In the interest of science, this post contains sexually explicit material. If you are underage and/or a sensitive person you are advised not to scroll down. If you don’t read Chinese it’s OK.
This is the continuation of the previous post in the series, where we ended up rambling off the main topic and into a thick soup of political terms. Today I am back to impose some discipline. The article was meant to be about sex, and sex we will do. Just stick around for a few paragraphs of theory, or scroll right down to the examples if you prefer.
The question we considered last time was: why communist regimes, most of which have abolished religion at some point, are in fact among the most puritan countries regarding porn? Which can be otherwise formulated: why are Chinese commies so prudish? With the ever growing impulse of the porn censoring machine, this may well become one of the fundamental questions to understand modern China. Click to continue »
It looks like Charles over at the new China Divide blog has found a new source of clicks to revive the China blogging scene: debating the crackdown on pornography in China.
While I don’t usually support any kind of censorship, I have to say I couldn’t care less for the cause of porn in China. From what I have seen, sex peddlers are the most disgraceful, spammy, virus-ridden and generally useless sites of the internet, and they distract netizens from doing more important things like reading my blog. You can be sure that you won’t find me in the ranks of the protesters when those websites get banned.
There is however a more important problem with banning porn, and it is that the definition of the Chinese authorities goes way further than what we usually understand as pornography. It applies to some wonderful works of art, including films such as An Lee’s Lust and Caution, or this great TV serial and book by Liu Liu. It is used to marginalize some excellent artists like Tang Wei, and in general it contributes to further stifle the creativity of the Chinese literary and artistic scene.
To be sure, many times the banning of “unhealthy” content is just an excuse to get rid of dissidents or to justify protectionist policies. But generally speaking, when Chinese authorities act against porn it is out of a genuine ethical concern. And here is where I see a more interesting angle to the discussion, linking up to the question I asked last year in the post about TV serials and communist ethics: why are the commies so prudish?
From my experience living in various communist and ex-communist countries, I conclude that this is not a strictly Chinese phenomenon. In fact, it is not even a communist phenomenon, but rather a common characteristic of conservative people everywhere. I maintain that the reason why erotic content is banned in China is just that the CCP is an extremely conservative organization, and as all conservatives everywhere they abhor public displays of sex, even if in private they might think nothing of going to the brothel 5 times a week.
Why then, do conservatives tend to have this particular attitude in common towards sex? And in particular, why are communist regimes, all of which abolished religion, at the forefront of sex related puritanism?
The Red Conservatives
First of all, I want to add here a definition of conservatives, just to avoid having the whole discussion turn around the meaning of a word. Like most political terms, this one can have different meanings in different places. The meaning I use for this post is one that I think is most intuitive and understood internationally. From the Encyclopedia Britannica:
Political attitude or ideology denoting a preference for institutions and practices that have evolved historically and are thus manifestations of continuity and stability. It was first expressed in the modern era through the works of Edmund Burke in reaction to the French Revolution, which Burke believed tarnished its ideals through its excesses. Conservatives believe that the implementation of change should be minimal and gradual; they appreciate history and are more realistic than idealistic.
In the case of communist countries like China it is always complicated to use the normal political terms of conservative/progressive, or right/left. The reason is that during 1949-1978 the paradigm was changed, and the old conservatives were exterminated. As a consequence, a “new country” was created from zero, so for the purpose of Chinese political life, the “institutions and practices that have evolved historically” only count as defined in the history of the Communist Party. And the conservatives in China tend to be communist.
This phenomenon is hardly unique. It follows the logic of revolutionary movements everywhere obtaining mainstream power: their focus suddenly shifts from “changing the world” to “maintaining the status quo”, and conservative mindsets normally take control.
It is hardly necessary to explain this to anyone who has lived in China, but I have the feeling that some Americans still find it strange to call a communist regime “conservative”. If you think all this is just intellectual blabber, you are missing the point. The supporters of the CCP are genuinely conservative people and they behave exactly as you would expect from a conservative elsewhere.
From my conversations with some passionate young men in the CCP, and my long chats in the internet-less nights of North Korea, I have a reasonable understanding of what moves those convinced “communists”: they dislike foreign influence and they attach an absurd importance to nationality and ethnicity; they are averse to anything that sounds like free thinking or questioning of the old ideas; they like to marry traditional girls, pretty by the old canons, who don’t wear mini-skirts or speak too much in public; they don’t like homosexual people and they are quick to call “whore” when a girl behaves exactly like many men do.
The tragedy is that these conservative people will never be able to connect with their counterparts in America, because both sides are still bound by their own religious and Cold War rethoric. Someone should invent a party with the slogan like: Conservatives of the World, unite!
A soup of political terms
I am going to have to cut this here for today, because my new blogging policies don’t let me do more than 1000 words per post. We will continue in the next one, but before I finish I want to mention the very interesting problem of political terms in China.
Due to the reversal of paradigms mentioned above, there is still a good deal of confusion in the West about which English words should be used to name the different ideologies in a communist country. I am no scholar in Chinese politics, but from the books I have read on the subject (including academic works like Victor Shih’s) I get the impression that the terms are not standardized. The only book I have seen that attempts to do a taxonomy is the little manual: “What does China Think” by Mark Leonard.
I am hoping that someone will lend me a hand here and point me to some other resource where I can look this up. In the meantime, from what I remember of that book and my own initiative, the main denominations go as below:
Old Left: Hardliners in the CPP who want to revive Maoism. Contrary to the West, these lefties are actually very conservative people.
Old Right: Admirers of Taiwan and the KMT, practically invisible in the mainland today. I never met one, so not sure if they are conservative characters or not. I assume many members of the FLG would respond to this description.
New Left: Politicians like the Prime Minister Wen, who push for more social policies, equal distribution of the wealth, etc, within the rule of the CCP. The mindset is still conservative, but less than the Old Left.
New Right: Politicians, thinkers and some business sharks inspired in Deng Xiaoping’s “get rich first” who want to give priority to the coastal regions and build a ruthless capitalist system. They don’t have any mindset because they are too busy getting rich first, and they don’t care about political ideology as long as their cats catch mice.
Right Left: This is my own dysfunctional term to include people like Xu Zhiyong or Liu Xiaobo, as well as some within the CCP who call for political reform, democracy and civil rights. Many of them are not dissidents, but just brave party members who dare to raise their voice. These are the only ones that respond to the idea I have of “progressive” mindset.
What do you think of this terminology?
NOTE: This list is not meant to be taken as reference, but rather to invite participation, please do propose any term you want, or point me to some good read about modern Chinese politics. For those who came here to find some sex, please come back tomorrow when I will continue with the main subject of the post and I will attach SEXUALLY EXPLICIT IMAGES of Chinese. Have a nice day.
The Oriental Morning Post of Shanghai is doing a nice coverage of the annualNPC-CPPCC meetings. I liked today’s paper edition, which carries a couple of cute alpacas right next to a picture of Hu and the boys walking down the aisle from the CPPCC they’ve just inaugurated.
It is a long story for those that haven’t been watching, but these lovely animals on the top left have come to mean a rude invective in Chinese, and one wonders if there is not a young malicious editor in the paper doing the front page layout. Because I mean, the news that “Alpacas cost 5,000 EUR in the animal fair” is hardly top front page material today, is it?
Anyway, this time of the year has come again and here is the Double Rubber Stamps Fair, or 两会, invading all the Chinese media. Yesterday I even watched the inauguration on CCTV, heroically exercising my listening skills with what is arguably the most boring political event of the year. In case you missed it, imagine a massive Madame Tussauds with thousands of figures where every one of them looks exactly the same as the next and sits in the same position. Add to this a brief performance of the national hymn and there you go, 开幕了！
Even if it is widely recognized that the 两会 has little political power, and that important decisions are taken beforehand by other organs, the show is still important for China watchers, as many policies are announced at this time. In theory this is an act in which the People (through the regional representatives that attend the meetings) propose new ideas to the Government. In this spirit, other channels have been opened recently, like the internet chats of Wen Jiabao.
This year we even have what looks like an independent initiative by private newspapers and websites to change the hukou system. Although I am skeptical that the proposal will fly (some of the articles have already been censored) it is good to see that private initiative is alive and that there is still some bit left of independent journalism in China bold enough to unite and propose policy changes.
The Oriental Post also carries a little interview with one of the most thundering delegates of the 两会, Ms. Zhang Xiaomei. This delegate was very popular on the internet last year as an ultraprolific drafter of astounding proposals. Some netizens worry that this year, as all the delegates have been equipped with free laptops (with taxpayer money!) Zhang’s performance will be enhanced, and the number of thunders may even exceed that of the previous years.
Here are some of the famous proposals of Ms. Zhang, many of them look like what left wing, feminist groups would propose in Europe. It is understandable that many netizens are skeptical: it is all a show giving a fake impression of political freedom that is in fact inexistent. But my personal opinion is that, whatever the real intentions of Ms. Zhang and the thunder delegates, it is always positive that there are people with the initiative to propose different views. Absurd or not, this activity is certainly a more positive image than the submissive wax figures of the inaugural sessions.
As Xu Zhiyong stated yesterday, the Chinese people have a mission to accomplish. When the time comes, the existence of an active civil society will be precious for China, and initiatives like mentioned above are a good sign that the spirit is alive under the surface.
And that is all for the inauguration of the 两会 this year. More coverage if necessary after the final conclusive session.
CLARIFICATION: The inauguration I watched yesterday was only that of the CPPCC, the NPC has a separate inauguration on Friday which will be even more grandiose, as it is the largest one with all the regional delegations. Don’t not miss that one!
You might be wondering why this story of Google is taking up so much space in this otherwise low-tech blog. I am as well. I think what fascinates me is the almost complete absence of first hand news after the G bomb. The time is for speculation, and for China bloggers and tea leave readers like me, it feels like we are right in our element. To the rest, welcome to China.
Yesterday I imagined a worst case scenario where Google let ugly international politics get mixed into this affair. That was just a scenario of doom, and not the outcome I consider most likely. In fact, I believe the G leaders are more intelligent than all that, and today I want to offer my personal, optimistic prediction. And to round it up, we will go back to the basics for a little study of Search Engine Manipulation, an essential and often ignored concept.
I was glad to hear today that Google wants to retain its operations in China, and that it is “ready to shut down its local search engine Google.cn unless it is allowed to run it uncensored”.
The key info here is “shut down its local search engine”. This would mean that Google is not going to force the situation anymore. Because the best way to piss off the CCP today would be to suddenly uncensor Google.cn without notice, and have the Propaganda Department issue an official note to close the servers. The document would be in all the headlines, and that would represent an unmistakeable challenge to the CCP’s authority.
But as it stands today, regardless of the old “face” arguments that some commentators have written, I don’t think the situation is critical. The CCP is not particularly happy to see Google leave, and if Google keeps its blogging enthusiasm under control, there is no reason why they will not be lenient. For all the bad points I noted in Google’s initial post, it has the great advantage of being ambiguous. Most Chinese people haven’t read the text, and the CCP can ignore the ultimatum implied and ascribe it to bad Laowai manners, a la emperor Qing.
I am predicting that if Google comes back to reason and avoids big game politics in the coming weeks, in exhange for that the Chinese government will let them get away with the rest. Well, probably Google will encounter some administrative trouble in their business, their Android plans might take ages to get approved, because the CCP needs to give a lesson to other audacious companies in the future.
But that is a problem of Google and its shareholders. What really matters to us is the freedom and openness of the Chinese internet, and here is the big news of the day: if Google.cn closes and Google.com remains, the Chinese internet will be MORE FREE THAN IT IS TODAY! You don’t believe me? Keep reading to find out why.
Google.com and Google.cn
One interesting thing of the Google search engines that is not very well understood is the difference between the different country sites: Google.com, Google.cn, Google.co.uk, etc. People don’t understand this simply because Google does not explain it in the instructions, and because it has changed over time.
But it is very easy to do some tests and compare the search results to come to this conclusion: what really matters is not the extension of the search engine, but your actual location. The simple reality is that, for Chinese non-SEM search terms (more below), the results in China for Google.com and Google.cn are exactly IDENTICAL. They have the same results in the same order, differing only in the sponsored ads.
If you are in China you can try this by looking up neutral terms like 上海浦东 or 鞋子. Google.com and Google.cn share indeed a single index, and the only difference between them is SEM, or the Manipulation of Search Engine results artificially done by Google in its Google.cn search engine. For various reasons that we will see below, this SEM is the shame of Google and the curse of the Chinese internet. Not only China, but Google Inc. and the whole World is much better off without Google.cn.
This means that, if Google operates smoothly and succeeds to retain in China its PR&D operations, it is very possible that in exchange the CCP will allow them to keep Google.com unblocked (GFW). Then the Chinese netizens, free of the scourge of Google.cn, will click on Google.com, and automatically be free of the brainwashing effects of Google.cn.
Search Engine Manipulation (Introduction)
I know athe conslusions above might sound a bit strange, and there are clearly a few objections that you can make. Namely, that URL and IP blocks still affect the sites you find on Google.com, producing the beautiful Reset Connections (RC) that we are so used to. But there are very important reasons to prefer the Google.com way to the Google.cn way. I need to get some sleep, but stay tuned and tomorrow I will give you the explanation and some nice pictures as evidence.
In the meantime, re-read last year’s study on SEM, RC and all the other creatures. And to start heating up, I leave you with this nice picture of what a Google.com search gives in China, without VPN or proxy or any other special device. This has remained exactly the same in the two years I have been monitoring. There is no real technical reason why Google does not apply SEM here, it must have negotiated with the government when they first came to China, and the CCP must have bought that all Chinese would go to Google.cn. Click to continue »
Looking back to what I wrote last week I realize that, in my effort to keep a cool head and analyze the events, I forgot to say a very important thing: I Respect Google. I have never had any doubt of the non-business nature of their decision, and, in spite of our poll’s results, I am convinced it was based on the personal, ethical and political convictions of the company’s leaders.
I do not like the way it has been done, but it sure takes some guts for a CEO to defy the World order, whatever the company’s IPO said. My own site has been victim of censorship, and I was quick to blame Google when they helped censor initiatives like Charter 08, so it is only fair that I praise them now. Search Engine Manipulation (SEM) is the worst kind of censorship, because it leads the user to believe that the information contained in search results is a fair sample of the World’s views. It was very difficult for Google to justify that behaviour, and it is good news that they stop being part of it. Bravo.
And yet, there are important reasons why Google has been putting up with the Chinese system for 4 years, and as far as I can see, all of those reasons are still there today. By leaving China on a whim, Google sends the message that all that work was just a big mistake. Worse still, by slamming the door on the way out, Google creates trouble for itself, for the Chinese netizens, and for the World internet community.
By any standard, Google’s statement last week is a disaster. It has all the sins that a company announcement can have, not only from the PR perspective, but also from plain common sense. It is insultingly self-righteous, it fails to provide a clear reason for the decision, and it does not offer evidence for any of the accusations. Worse still, it sends an ultimatum to the government of China, revealing a thirst of political power that is very disturbing in a corporation.
Brazen cartoon on China Daily (WSJ)
The primary colors in Google’s logo and its simple slogan “don’t be evil” suggest a world of fairy tales where Good and Evil are clearly defined, and one can live following the Google path, righteously pointing out to others that they are in the wrong. Life is unfortunately more complex, and only very simple people can believe that God is always on theirside.
Intentions and Nature of Google
I liked yesterday’s article by Rebecca Mackinnon because it rejected the idiotic debate about the purity of motive of Google’s leaders. On the other hand, I found it a bit too optimistic regarding the role of Google and the World internet community today.
Google is no more or less evil than most corporations. The difference is it has a developed a unique business model that requires large amounts of trust and goodwill, and it has done a great job of promoting it up to now. To the point that in the online community, it has managed to reverse the classic roles, turning the radical hacktivists into CEO-huggers. Click to continue »
I know, there are other news in the World, and I am probably not paying enough attention to them. But I can’t help it, I’ve been overclocking for the last 48h trying to understand Google’s decision, I have read every single article appeared on the internet since. And I still don’t get it.
I want to make this a collaborative page, I will keep it on top and I would appreciate comments with clues and POVs I might have missed. The objective is to come up with reasonable hypothesis and then cross out the wrong ones. I will also add interesting bits of info below as they come out:
Hypothesis: Why did Google stand up to the CCP? (UPDATES Below)
Business: We have seen that, with the info in hand, the decision doesn’t make sense from a pure business perspective. Who knows, you might say, perhaps the goodwill earned in the West will end up compensating for the loss of China, perhaps democracy will come soon. Yes, que sera sera. But that’s not how decisions are taken in business. There is a profit and a risk to consider, and when the gain is so uncertain and the loss so clear, it doesn’t make business sense. More on this below.
Ethical: Yes, “don’t do evil”, I know. Hello, all the corporations today have CSR and ethical codes, mine too, even if it is not as cool as Google. But really, a company doesn’t have feelings, it doesn’t respond to notions like love or ethics. Only people do that. And, in the case of Google, only Page, Brin and Schmidt have that kind of power. Did they suddenly get pangs of conscience and decided to follow their own principles at any cost? Some already suggest this might have been a personal decision influenced by Sergey Brin. More on the personal hypothesis below.
Checkmate: Google has some information about the Chinese industrial espionage activities that is still undisclosed, with evidence that would compromise the CCP, and possibly push it against the wall in some WTO proceeding. The victims include dozens of Western companies, and the crime is so outrageous that all those countries would be forced to stand up to the CCP as well. This could be Google’s ace in the hole, and it would explain the style of their blog post. This is the only winning hypothesis for the G. It deserves strong consideration, based on the premise that the 3 leaders of Google are Very Intelligent Guys.
Legal: The muddled style of the message and the bad moment chosen (we should be speaking of Nexus One right now!) makes me think that there might have been some pressing matter that pushed Google to do this. Like we said, the same goodwill could have been obtained by simply uncensoring Google.cn without writing a public accusation to the CCP. Is this a move to deslegitimate the Chinese system and avert an upcoming Chinese lawsuit? Did some of the activists threaten to sue Google for the leaks, or was it the Chinese authorities that were getting dangerous? Google Books? Porn on Google Images?
Political: We saw as well that the most likely political outcome is an increase of censorship in China, a net loss for the employees of Google and the Chinese netizens, and perhaps even a rise of nationalism and protectionist policies. There is no way that this move is going to help the Chinese in the short term. Even if there was: it is not and it can not be the role of a public company to actively engage in politics hand in hand with the US government. Need I remember anyone that the US government is today responsible for evil as severe as the CCP? More news here.
IP Protection: Google might have decided to force its way out of China because really it has detected some theft of IP so severe that it puts in danger the whole business. It is hard to believe that Google is unable to hide its own IP from the Chinese government. We are speaking of the same government that couldn’t even come up with a decent filtering software last year. Let’s just say this option is unlikely. Update: this hypothesis is stronger after rumour of a CCP mole, see Update 2 below.
Conspirational: Google has something to hide. It is something very big and very very weird, like E. Schmidt is an alien, or an irrecoverable bug has been found on Larry’s algorithm, or a Google databank in the US has been held by AlQaida and… and all this noise is just to distract our attention. This would be consistent with the quick messy post at the Google blog.
Personal: Larry Page and Sergey Brin are among the most admired persons in the universe, they are the Gods of the internet. They achieved that at a very young age, and they have spent the last decade sitting on the Google Search cash cow and freely recruiting the best intelligences in the World to conquer the internet and get more universal love than Jesus Christ. Their egos are shooting through the Googolplex roof, and they have decided to bring democracy back, coz them other CEOs don’t know how to act. Girl.
Macroeconomic: Google has obtained insider info on the financial position of some Chinese Banks and the superhuman brains of P and B have come up with a new algorithm predicting that the Chinese system is going to collapse tomorrow. They leave while they are still in time, collecting bonus World goodwill and defying a CCP that will not be there this time next year anyway…
Various/Spectacular: From Daily Beast via BoingBoing: “the reason they know it’s the Chinese government behind these attacks is because Google gave them the key”, “Your entire life, as stored on Google’s servers, may now be there for the taking.” and “Google is attempting to create a distraction.” Also from Posner in Daily Beast: The Red Menace is back, Google thwarts China’s plan to control the World with an army of hackers.
UPDATE:Danwei has collected some informations regarding the low profit that Google is getting in China. This would give some weight to the Business option above. However, it still doesn’t make any sense. They could have just uncensored Google.cn, get sent away with all the PR hoopla, and all the while not cross the CCP too much with the public accusations of email hacking. Because there is ABSOLUTELY no business interest in Google forcing things in a way that even Google.com and all the G services will be blocked. China can do that easily with the GFW.
UPDATE 2:The moles theory. ESWN translates from anonymous Chinese blogger claiming insider info: Google trusts its employees and gives them access to all the codes, suddenly discovered one of the employees is actually a CCP mole who’s been passing information, not only about activists but also Google’s own IP (actually from the initial G’s post it is not clear which of the two problems has moved Google).
Rings true to me, and explains why all employees in China are being sent on holidays. And yet, this doesn’t change much the situation. Wasn’t it pretty obvious that Google had CCP spies all along? Every company here has members of the CCP working in it, mine as well. And it is difficult to believe G was so naive as to not take precautions against this.
Moreover, the kind of people that work in Google are the best of the best universities, a high percentage of those people are members of the party here. The surprising thing would have been that there was NO moles in Google China.
I don’t think the big deal is the mole. Whether the hacks were done through moles or through other means is secondary, what is essential to the issue here is the Magnitude of the IP theft, and the Evidence G has, and possibly the other Companies involved. For the POLL, this theory is included in the IP Protection option above.
UPDATE 3: (h/t CDT) Newsweek interview Eric Schmidt: Decision based on values, not business. Mentions monitoring of dissidents, not technology IP theft. Says Google’s IPO specified Google would be different, maximizing profits was not the objective of Google Inc, so no responsibility to the shareholders.
But why why why? Why such a bad form? They could have done it more smoothly, and avert the risk of being completely banished from China. And why now, when the treatment of dissidents is known in China for years? Does it make any difference if hacks are done through a mole in Gmail or through Baidumail once Google is gone? And wouldn’t the right thing be to fight, and encrypt the email better, and give those dissidents a much needed support to stay alive?
Feel free to suggest other hypothesis, or else just vote below:
Following the previous post about Google and China, here are my reflections regarding the foreseeable consequences of all this. First of all, an important clarification: I don’t think fighting against censorship is bad. Censorship in China is very real, it is a disgrace not only for activists but for most honest Chinese, and it only serves the purpose of self-preservation of the CCP.
Having said this, in the previous post I criticized Google for this decision because I think the form is wrong, and the method chosen for this fight is wrong, and more importantly: the Leader of this fight should not be a corporation, much less a Western corporation going solo into politics.
On the other hand, if it was a pure business calculation I think it is wrong as well, in the long term it does not make business sense, and the growing Chinese market is likely to live much longer than any goodwill earned for this.
The more I look at the message, the more it looks like a mistake, a young idealist Googler that has escaped the supervision of his boss. What authority does this blog really have to speak for the company? the message is legit, as commentators have proven below.
In any case, here are some consequences I foresee, again in fast bullet points:
The way the message has been drafted, chances for Google.cn to remain are slim. It will be very difficult for Google to step back from this, the whole tech World is going nuts about it. On the other hand, it is even more difficult for the Chinese authorities: even if they were willing to accept Google’s conditions (which they are not) they could never allow a Western company to publicly force their policies. Unless there is some kind of recanting, Google.cn is doomed.
The Chinese authorities can do more than forcing Google.cn out. If things go sour they are also very likely to GFW block* the whole Google.com, in which case the situation would be even worse than pre-Google.cn in 2006. Google could totally disappear from China and say goodbye to a fast growing 20% of the World’s internet users. This includes the phones and any other Google product.
I maintain that the decision is BAD in business because consumers have very bad memories, and the goodwill gained in one day, however massive, does not last. How many companies go bust for accusations of child labor? In a few months nobody will remember this move, and Google will find itself down 20% potential market and with nothing in exchange.
Baidu is going to go up even more, and some other Western opportunists as well. The search service of Baidu is demonstrably worse than Google, and the Chinese internet users will be the first victims of an impoverished service. The already noted Divide between China and the West will be further increased, and this can only be bad for the Chinese, and bad for Human Rights, and bad for the World.
Regarding the bigger political picture, all this is unlikely to have any effect on American or Chinese policies unless there are many more Western companies that join Google. But no other company is going to join a crusade to bring goodwill to Google, and the move will just leave superficial scars in the CCPs internet reputation, which they will be able to heal in no time with some little doses of nationalist balm.
Regarding the stock market, the media has noted that Google is down 1.77%, but that is not significant in a day when the whole Nasdaq was down 1.35%. Note that Baidu fell 3.51% after my yesterday’s post, and probably the impact on Google will be seen today when the market opens. I am quite happy that I got rid of my Bs yesterday to buy some Gs, and today I am getting rid of the Gs again to get back the Bs. This has to be a winner move!
*Note: Servers outside of China (google.com) get blocked by the GFW, servers within China get bullied by the Nanny. Two completely different processes with a similar result. More here.
Fascinating article (in spite of the title). For all the humanitarian blah-blah of the West, this single hypocritical action, the agricultural subsidies in our developed countries, has caused more suffering in Africa than all the Chinese factory supervisors ... if there is any hope for Africa, it will come from the BRICS.
Interesting article, but I think too optimistic. All this "debate" we are seeing is probably just a reflection of internal struggle for power in the run up to 2012. As soon as the seats are assigned and the match is settled, these "debates" will die out and the leaders will go on with their business. They are not ideological driven leaders, but mostly pragmatic. <br><br>Looking at it from a different angle: if somethings works well, why on earth would they want to change it? China is still growing at amazing speed, the PEW surveys show high levels of satisfaction, the miracle is still in full force. I don't believe for a second that Bo and the others want to return to Maoist politics in any meaningful way. They want to maintain the status quo, and to increase their own power, that's all.