China and Google: “Obey the Country’s Laws and Traditions”

So, I presume everyone’s heard of the row between Google and China, over the (obviously state-sponsored) hacking of Google accounts in the hopes of nabbing those pesky Chinese democracy activists? If not, this article might catch you up. It contains at least one howler:

The California-based company, which launched in China in 2006, said it would quit the country unless the government relaxed censorship. On Tuesday, the Chinese government said Google and other foreign companies had to obey the country’s laws and traditions.

The howler being that if you know even just a little about China’s traditions and history, you know that, as Sinologist Simon Leys once put it (somewhere in The Burning Forest: Essays on Culture and Politics in Contemporary China, as far as I recall, quite roughly, from reading it over a decade ago) about half of the (unified) nation’s history was taken up by semi-stable rule by one or another dynasty… and the other half involved the very same dynasties kept busy fighting to put down rebellions, attempted secesssions, or invasions by people who didn’t feel the current ruling dynasty ought to be running the place.

Moreover, yes, some of those ruling dynasties were run by foreigners who stepped in and annihilated the ruling dynasty, taking over by force. Qing Dynasty, anyway? Mongols in China, folks?

While I’m not suggesting Google take over China — that wouldn’t even be practicable for another 30n or 40 years now, I think — the fact remains that if foreigners stepping in and taking over when the current dynasty gets too rotten and flimsy to hold them off is indeed a part of Chinese history, then what the hell… Google aiding and abetting democracy activists is certainly well within the range of Chinese traditions, as I see it. It’s practically an embroidered invitation for Google to do its damndest to rip apart the Great Firewall, to empower activists, to present (with a friendly, Google smile) the citizens of China with all the information, anonymity, and power that their current dynasty government has decided they “can’t handle.”

In doing so, of course, Google would make friends all over (what we call) the democratic world, and people in the West at least would be all that much more likely to hesitate when considering raising criticisms about things like how copyright and Google Books works, or whether Google Ads could be put to evil uses, as in Cory Doctorow’s “Scroogled.” (Even if real-world agencies are eager to make something like it real.)

Then again, the revenue lost when China figured out how to rebuild a “better” Great Firewall, and/or the risk of a responding punch from the same state-sponsored Chinese hackers, would likely be so great that I guess Google would be leery to play that kind of hardball. Too bad, though, that Google can’t implement some kind of effective outgoing filter on data to China: however much of the outside world you let in, that much goes out; we slam dead as many outgoing messages (preferably from big companies or government) from your servers as you bounce incoming data and outgoing searches. Woo. But, as far as I know, Google doesn’t own the Net (yet), and while some kind of software trick might make this possible, it’s not gonna happen. Not in our economy, anyway, I can’t see it.

But I’m just saying: don’t talk out your ass, China. We are capable of knowing at least something of your history, even if we ain’t Chinese. And while we’re at it: Bjork has “broken Chinese law and hurt Chinese people’s feelings,” when she referred to Tibet in a concert?

Eh? Hurt feelings? What are you, five years old? Wherever one stands on Tibet, “hurt feelings” is just a pathetic thing to accuse someone of causing while in your country. Amateurs, these guys.

Wait, wait, maybe the cadres have been catching up on old episodes of American TV and ran across pirated DVDs of Flight of the Conchords? Maybe they were trying to get a laugh out of the knowing, clever, cool kids?

Nah, that can’t be it.

By the way, yeah, I know. I’m being rude.

I don’t care, and neither does the Chinese government, anymore. A year or so, a Chinese friend of mine told me that my blog is blocked by the Great Firewall of China. My blog, of all things. If I’m considered that much of a danger to the Chinese government, then imagine what they do with real life Chinese dissidents. (Thank goodness, though, they haven’t noted the name registrations of blocked websites in their immigration information: I visited China sometime after the blockage probably happened, and was neither turned away at the border nor imprisoned in the dungeons of Beijing.)

My consolation is that, if people like that think I’m a bad boy, I must be doing something right.

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