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Advancing a peaceful transition to democracy in China through truth, understanding, citizen power, & cooperative action

Google Should Stay in China

Google deserves the unanimous praise of world governments and the international business community for its decision to no longer censor its Chinese search engine, google.cn. This action in defense of its mission to “do no evil” stands in stark contrast with Yahoo’s decision, in 2005, to hand over to the Chinese government the private emails of journalist, Shi Tao. Those emails were subsequently used against Shi for “divulging state secrets abroad.” He was sent to prison for 10 years. Unfortunately, Yahoo is not alone. Today many companies in the IT sector and other sectors routinely acquiesce to the censorship demands of the Chinese  government. But as Google now realizes, such cooperation provides no security.  Compromise with tyranny eventually returns to haunt the accomplices.

While I applaud Google’s stand, I also caution it not to withdraw from China. Doing so would only strengthen the Chinese government’s control of the Internet by handing over Google’s  business to the well-regulated Chinese competitor, Baidu. This would undoubtedly delight the Chinese authorities.

The reason behind the Chinese government’s almost rapid preoccupation with Internet censorship is its consummate fear of its own citizens  It knows that it has long lost their respect and trust. Its leadership is bereft of any ideology. Its only mission is to maintain power. Its strategy is repression of any perceived threat to its rule by any means possible, without regard for the rule of law or international standards of behavior.

The Chinese government realizes that its continued rule depends on keeping truth from its citizens and preventing them from communicating and organizing.  In today’s technological world that means it must control the Internet.  That’s why it employs tens of thousands of “cybercops” and the latest technology (much of which is supplied by U.S. companies) to create the “Great Firewall” that censors and controls the flow of information along the electronic superhighway.  It is this fear of its citizens and the power of the Internet that drove the Chinese government to cyberattack  Google. This irrational behavior concerns not only the rights of Chinese citizens but also the suitability of China as a reliable and trusted international partner.

The  Chinese government’s fear of the Internet is well founded.  A free and uncensored Internet is the soft underbelly of tyranny and the fast track to a peaceful transition to democracy in China.  Instead of withdrawing from China, I urge Google to stand up to China by pushing for an uncensored Internet.  It should convince the Chinese authorities that its attempt to control its population through an Internet Firewall is as futile as the Berlin Wall was to the East German government. Ultimately a free Internet serves the bests interest of everyone.

The burden of bringing an uncensored Internet to China, however, shouldn’t rest upon the shoulders of one company alone. The world’s political and business communities should rally behind Google because ultimately the security of the world as well as the rights of Chinese citizens are at stake. To paraphrase the wise counsel of the Soviet era dissident, Andrei Sakharov, the world community cannot rely on governments that do not rely on their own people. President Barack Obama’s administration, the U.S. Congress, and the U.S. business community need to work together to induce the Chinese government to tear down its Firewalls. I believe that a free flow of information along the Internet, more than anything else, will open the door to freedom and long term stability in China. Such collective action, led by the United States,  will help China’s rulers realize that they must change their behavior toward their own people if they want to be truly accepted as a legitimate government and a contributing member of the world community.

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