Back in September, Tom Friedman got blasted for praising China's one-party rule. Friedman wrote then that "one-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages." He spent the rest of the column arguing that China's government is superior to the American one, and accomplishes far more in terms of alternative energy. Critics were aghast.
Gape no longer: today, Tom Friedman has stumbled upon one of those "drawbacks" to autocracy. He now thinks the Chinese system--at least part of it--may have rough edges. Arguing that the Google-China spat is a "proxy and a symbol for whether the Chinese will be able to freely search and connect wherever their imaginations and creative impulses take them," he asserts that there are "two Chinese economies today." First, "there is the Communist Party and its affiliates; let’s call them Command China." Then there is "Network China," which allows and encourages "knowledge flows." Though it seemed to be the Command China Friedman was praising back in September, now he thinks it's a liability:
Command China, which wants to censor Google, is working against Network China, which thrives on Google. For now, it looks as if Command China will have its way. If that turns out to be the case, then I’d like to short the Communist Party.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.