Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Great Firewall of China

The "Great Firewall of China" open hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives is currently going out live at this link.

(Via Bildt Comments)

The session is proving to be quite telling, and is revealing some real weaknesses in State Department and Administration policies towards China. Yahoo, Google, Cisco and Microsoft, all of which have official representatives present and testifying, are not doing too well in justifying their practices, either. They sound angry and defensive, and are falling back on the threadbare "imperfect world" and "constructive engagement" arguments that were so familiar during the - pre-Internet - detente debates of the Cold War.

What's becoming clear as the hearing continues is that the U.S. Internet companies are essentially doing the Chinese government's work for it, and are co-operating in the persecution and detention - often leading to torture and death - of Chinese citizens accused of anti-government activity. As Tom Lantos most eloquently pointed out, the argument that the companies have been following legal orders of the U.S. government is not valid - IBM was following legal orders when it worked in Nazi Germany during the 1930s and helped to create the technology that made the Holocaust possible.

It all adds up to another example of how some of the world's most repressive governments are increasingly trying to turn the elements of Western democracy against it - and having some success, something that didn't really happen during the Cold War. Someone has been studying and learning some lessons.
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