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EJ
08-13-06, 12:05 PM
Race to the Bottom (http://www.hrw.org/reports/2006/china0806/)
Corporate Complicity in Chinese Internet Censorship

China’s system of Internet censorship and surveillance, popularly known as the “Great Firewall,” is the most advanced in the world. In this 149-page report, Human Rights Watch documents how extensive corporate and private sector cooperation – including by some of the world’s major Internet companies – enables this system of censorship. Research was performed through interviews and extensive testing of search engines in China, and includes 18 screen shots to illustrate examples of censorship. The report vividly illustrates how various companies, including Yahoo!, Microsoft, Google, and Skype block terms they believe the Chinese government will want them to censor.

AntiSpin: All around the Western world, we enjoy the benefits of the cheap labor in places like China, Vietnam and Malaysia: cheap, imported high quality goods. Here in the US, without the deflationary counterweight of cheap imports to balance out high inflation in non-traded goods and services -- energy, health care, insurance, education -- even the Bureau of Labored Statistics' rigged inflation numbers will reflect a high level of all-goods inflation. In addition, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) central bank has lent nearly $1 trillion dollars to the US via purchases of US sovereign debt over the past ten years, helping to support the dollar and finance massive US trade and fiscal deficits. Our standard of living in the US is significantly supported by these imports and loans, but comes at a moral price.

The majority of Americans believe that China's growth is analogous to Japan's or Taiwan's after WWII. Japan's and Taiwan's governments were democratic during their rise, and China's totalitarian, but capitalism will allow the Chinese economy to evolve to provide wealth and prosperity to Chinese citizens, and that this will lead to greater political freedom over time. While slave labor conditions for many workers in China today are well documented, it is hoped that these conditions will give way to better working conditions as labor demand and costs gradually rise; workers will gain pricing power and, with it, political power. Capitalism demands the rule of law, so this thinking goes, and this naturally leads to greater political freedom and democratic reform.

This report from Human Rights Watch is one of several recently that shows that, unfortunately, these beliefs do not conform to fact in China under the Chinese Communist Party, or CCP. From the report:

While some suggest that economic development will inexorably lead to improvements in human rights and the rule of law, in the past few years the rights situation has deteriorated. The rule of law continues to seriously lag behind economic expansion. The judiciary, a pillar of a rights-respecting society, remains poorly trained and under the political control of the Chinese Communist Party. Access to justice remains severely limited for citizens with grievances, particularly the poor. The Party retains its monopoly on political power and shows no signs of allowing political pluralism or challenges to its authority. Torture continues to be rampant, China continues to lead the world in the number of judicially authorized executions, and land grabs by the powerful from the poor have become a national problem. The list of critical human rights problems can go on and on. As a result, there is enormous social unrest, as evidenced by tens of thousands of street protests annually.

Since President Hu Jintao came to power in 2003, the trend towards greater freedom of expression––a core right upon which the attainment of many other rights depends––has been reversed. Many critical (and popular) media outlets that have exposed corruption or criticized government policies have been closed. Large numbers of journalists have been jailed.

One of the most distressing trends has been a steady crackdown on the Internet. While in the past decade the Internet has ushered in an era of unprecedented access to information and open discussion, debate, and dissent, since President Hu took office the authorities have taken a series of harsh steps to control and suppress political and religious speech on the Internet, including the jailing of Internet critics and bloggers for peaceful political expression.

In fact, China’s system of Internet censorship and surveillance is the most advanced in the world. While tens of thousands of people are employed by the Chinese government and security organs to implement a system of political censorship, this system is also aided by extensive corporate and private sector cooperation—including by some of the world’s major international technology and Internet companies. In China, the active role of censor has been extended from government offices into private companies. Some companies not only respond to instructions and pressures from Chinese authorities to censor their materials, they actively engage in self-censorship by using their technology to predict and then censor the material they believe the Chinese government wants them to censor.


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While it's comforting to think that every time we buy goods Made in PRC, we are helping a Chinese workers climb out of poverty, we must also be mindful that we are also supporting tyranny, a totalitarian state run by the CCP that has over 30 years gradually morphed from a left wing dictatorship into a right wing dictatorship. The CCP is deploying modern technology to control the lives of its citizens and restrict their freedoms in a way that is eerily familiar to readers of George Orwell's 1984. China under the CCP is moving away from democracy not toward it.

Meanwhile, as the US is bogged down in wars in the Middle East, the CCP expands its imperialist drive across Asia (http://www.boston.com/news/world/asia/articles/2006/08/13/china_poised_to_dominate_influence_in_asia/), into Africa (http://www.thetrumpet.com/index.php?page=article&id=2434), and Latin America (http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/opinion/15265214.htm).

Eventually, the West will have to acknowledge that "Buying CCP" is supporting tyranny, and that the only way to apply pressure on the CCP to reform is to take away the source of its power, the wealth generated by doing business with the party: buying PRC products, accepting CCP loans and investing in CCP state-owned companies. Given US reliance on the CCP for everything from cheap imports to nearly $1 trillion dollars in loans via purchases of US sovereign debt by the CCP's central bank, to exports of technology that directly enables censorship of Chinese citizens, to investments in CCP banks by US banks, measures to weaken the CCP will exact a high economic cost to Americans and require sacrifices that few Americans are willing to make.

It remains to be seen whether US leadership and its people have the political will to stand up to CCP tyranny or will instead allow it to blossom into a global force to be reckoned with on a much greater and even more unmanageable scale some day in the future.