Recent emotional outbursts like this one by Glen Reynolds of Instapundit to Google’s decision to self-censor in entering the Chinese market are not only naïve, they show a complete lack of understanding of how global trends work. The infamous blogger and author of “An Army of David’s: How Markets and Technology Empower Ordinary People to Beat Big Media, Big Government, and Other Goliaths” quotes a recent Wall Street Journal Article: “Executives from Google Inc. and other Internet companies head to Capitol Hill next week, where they will become feature players in an awkward debate: Are U.S. companies giving in to China too easily? Last month, Google announced an agreement with the Chinese government to censor search results from its Chinese site. It was the latest Internet company to accede to the Chinese government's censorship restrictions, following Cisco Systems Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc.”
Reynolds concludes: “I hope they find the eperience (sic) embarrassing.” This kind of paranoia is somewhat reminiscent of the days of the petty U.S.A./U.S.S.R. disputes, all which ultimately proved destructive and futile. Perhaps the law professor and the members of this week’s Capitol Hill committee should attend a quick history class and think about what the title of the former’s new book is saying, for if they did, they might notice how frequently self-censorship by organisations who in the past have tried to enter politically controversial markets results usually not in the ethical aberration of the organisations, but actually in changes to that nation’s marketplace. Supporters of the spread of the Western policies of free speech and low censorship should welcome actions like Google’s in entering China with some constraints, because they are the best real attempts that can be made to change the political landscape of emerging economies.
Take a recent New York Times article picked up by Hong Kong website “Simon’s World”, entitled “Ex-officials protest censorship by China”. “A dozen former Chinese Communist Party officials and senior scholars, including a onetime secretary to Mao Zedong and the retired bosses of the country's most powerful media outlets, have denounced the recent closing of a prominent newspaper supplement and helped fuel a growing backlash against press censorship in the one-party state,” reports Joseph Kahn. “Propaganda officials are also facing rare public challenges to their legal authority to take such actions, including a short strike and a string of resignations at one newspaper and defiant open letters from two editors singled out for censure.”
The piece concludes; “Those protests suggested that some people in China's increasingly market-driven media industry no longer fear the consequences of violating the party line.”
Reynolds is not the only one to be making such a fuss over the Chinese issue: almost unanimously the media have cried foul over what they perceive as mal intent by “the worlds’ most philanthropic company,” but the critics miss the point. Changes like those described above are brought about because of organisations like Yahoo! And Google, who are willing to concede on the grounds of some preliminary home-country moral issues in order to make progress in implementing their wider philosophies onto the global stage. Only by “doing as one does in Rome” can one reasonably expect to make progress in implementing policy and cultural change there.