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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Information Imperialism?

February 15, 2010

by William R. Stimson

What if the Chinese government stopped lying to its people and
admitted inconvenient truths?  What if some in power were swept away
as a result and others arose to take their place?  Would this be the
end of China as we know it?  Would this spell the defeat of Chinese
culture at the hands of the West?

Look at Taiwan.  An opposition party, free elections, an uncensored
Internet – still the environment is one every Chinese would recognize
and feel at home in.  These necessary modern developments are not a
threat to China or its culture.  The only ones they might threaten are
those who grab for themselves a bit too much of what belongs to all.
To preserve their prerogative to do this, and pass this on to their
children, though it be at the expense of their culture, their nation,
their people, and even their Communist ideology – this tiny percentage
of the population in the People’s Republic strives at all cost to
cover up what it is doing.  It’s dishonest to its own people.  It does
everything in its power to prevent embarrassing truths from reaching
them from foreign sources.

This latest bundle of untruths – that the Chinese Internet is open,
the United States uses the Internet to dominate the world, and Western
insistence on an uncensored Internet amounts to “information
imperialism” because less-developed nations like China cannot possibly
compete when it comes to information flow – contains one very
interesting admission that has curiously not received the attention it
deserves.  Lies cannot stand, they’re not convincing, unless bundled
with truths.  The truth in all these falsehoods is that to the extent
China continues to shackle itself by dominating the flow of
information to its people, then no matter what impressive external
manifestations of progress and prosperity it manages to feather itself
with, in substance it remains, in the most important respect, a
less-developed country and one that can never catch up.

The Chinese government’s cyber attack on Google is telling.  A system
that is closed, controlled, and dominated by a small minority – which
is not the most creative or innovative segment of the society – can
only progress by stealing or grabbing what does not belong to it.
China’s whole foreign policy seems to boil down to grabbing Taiwan and
preventing any discussion of how it grabbed Tibet.  It unconscionably
befriends whatever unsavory regime it needs to in order to grab
resources.  It’s even intent on grabbing tiny little islands way out
at sea from neighboring countries all around.  China is already big
enough.  What it has of most value is already inside it – it’s people
and their superior creative potential.  It needs to grab nothing.  It
needs instead to release its people’s vast potential so that it can
stop being wasted; and the world needs this too of China.

Nobody knows from what tiny point in China’s vast society its most
creative and innovative element might spring.  It can come from
anywhere, so everywhere needs to be free.  Who could have predicted,
for example, that a particular little Jewish boy brought by his father
from Communist Russia to America would grow up to drop out of Stanford
and become the co-founder of Google.  Sergey Brin was a wonder who
came, like true creative innovation always does, out of the blue.

How different is Google’s view of information to that of the Chinese
government.  It’s not about domination at all – but freedom and
empowerment of the disenfranchised and downtrodden.  How ironic that a
Communist regime views information as a means to dominate while
Google, an American company, views it as a means to liberate.  Things
are not what they seem.  The consensus that China, in its present
form, is the future begins to look wrong.  The future may actually be
Google, or some combination of China and Google.  The company has hit
upon a new way to do business that’s not the tired old exploitative
American capitalism, which fits in so well with Beijing’s schemes –
but that’s not Communism either.  Rather it falls somewhere in
between.  This business organization has found a way to earn money by
benefitting the collective, and doing it in a way that enables and
develops the creative vision of its employees.  Google does business
in a different way.  There is no end of riches in the direction it’s
taken and no end of business niches where its ideas can be replicated
and further developed.  More profit can be made by cultivating than by
exploiting people and the planet.  It’s that simple.  Compare this to
Chinese companies that put poison in toys and fake protein in baby
formulas.

This venture that Google has started out on in the end can’t help but
make China and the U.S. partners rather than adversaries.  It behooves
the Chinese government to rise to the occasion and let Google come
through unfettered to the Chinese people.  Whatever destabilizing
effects this may have on China’s corrupt bosses will be offset a
million times over by the deeper stabilization that can’t help but
arise as thousands of Chinese Sergey Brins are empowered to surface
from the most marginal and unlikely spots all over China’s vast map
with innovations that make China’s glitzy prosperity and progress not
just a surface phenomenon based on what has been grabbed, stolen, or
diverted from the West – but a true manifestation of China’s
underlying cultural greatness and the genius of its people.
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