Maybe there’s more to the Google-China story than first meets the eye.
I first learned that Google is a business run by business people when, a few weeks after buying Blogger in 2003, they added a Blog This button to their toolbar. They could have used the open API we had labored to achieve in the blogging world, and then users could have configured the toolbar to work with any blogging tool. No one would have begrudged Google the right to make Blogger the default, but to hard-code it so that it only worked with Blogger, when there was a perfectly good API they could have used instead? That clued me in. These guys are here to make money, and given a choice between doing something clearly good for the Internet (using an open API), they chose not to do it, because it might have meant less of a table-tilt for their own blogging tool. And all this happened just weeks after they promised not to do anything to tilt the table in favor of Blogger. So much for promises.
I’ve been around Silicon Valley long enough to know what this meant. It’s just business. And when China said Google had to censor or be shut out of the Chinese market, they did the sensible business thing, they said okay. This of course is not a problem for Americans, because these rules don’t apply to us, but wait a minute, think it over, maybe they do.
Fast-forward a few years. The Chinese economy is strong, and thanks to all the debt we’ve piled up, and our inefficient work force here in the US, we’re unemployed and they’re working. The Chinese now hold the cards, and they’re concerned that their populace will want the freedoms Americans have. So they agree to keep funding our debt, but with a condition — the US government must enact a law making the Chinese censorship rules apply in the US. If you do it, we don’t call in the loans. If you don’t, start paying the interest and get ready to pay the principle.
Think it can’t happen? Get your head out of the box and read the news. It’s already starting. Now the question is, is it just Google that’s Just a Business, or the whole world? Did our government take a pledge not to be evil (yes, that’s basically what the Constitution says) and assuming they did, did they mean it? (Not this government.)
We always say we’re exporting our way of life to the Chinese, but to me that seems as naive as the expected peace dividend people were talking about at the end of the Cold War.