Google stands to lose its (perhaps faltering) business in China by storming out of the country. What's at stake for China? Commentators have turned from the broader implications of the tech leviathan's clash with the coveted market, to exploring the historical and political repercussions of a Google pull-out. Here's what China stands to lose:
- Lose Face, Information, says the Atlantic's China go-to man James Fallows. If Google leaves, it will be "lose-lose-lose--for Google (outside the Chinese market), for the Chinese government (publicly embarrassed, which will bring out worse rather than better tendencies), and for the Chinese public (symbolically cut off that much more from the mainstream of modern development, and with an internet ecology worse than it could be, with the absence of a major innovative competitor)."
- Lose Capitalism--Like Spain Back in the Protestant Reformation One of Fallows's readers offers an interesting historical analogy regarding Catholic countries' censorship in response to the introduction of the printing press:" in less than 50 years, in the Protestant countries, where the press was not controlled, people of the crafts-producing class were able to become literate and change the way they produced goods. Over time this new way of producing goods became capitalism." The Catholic countries lost out on this transformation, while Protestant countries like Holland and England went on to take over the international scene.The reader muses that perhaps "China, having made Spain's decision to control information, is now out of the running for world leadership."
- Lose Coherence In his opinion shift on Chinese autocracy--giggled at elsewhere on the Wire--Tom Friedman very reasonably points out that the contradictions between China's "three impulses--control flows for political reasons, maintain 20th-century Command
Chinese factories for employment reasons and expand 21st-century
Network China for growth reasons"--could "undermine" all of these goals. Google, a challenge to the "control flows" impulse but an asset to "Network China," brings up just such a contradiction.
- Another Step in a Counterproductive Civilization Clash The attack on Google had "nothing to do with persecuting dissidents and everything to do with Beijing's desire to catch up and overtake the West as quickly and cheaply as possible," argues Dominic Lawson in the London Times. Nor is China embarrassed by technology and intellectual copyright theft, he contends, looking at the history of the past few centuries: "At bottom [the Chinese] feel that we stole their place in the sun and whatever chicanery they use to restore their position--as it was before the industrial revolution left them in our wake--is nothing whatever to be ashamed of." The problem with this approach, according to Lawson:
When civilisations clash there is generally only one winner. History, rather than today's commentators, will record the ultimate outcome of this ideological conflict between free expression and thought control. My money is not on the Chinese Communist party, despite all its genius for repression.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.