The Columbia Critic

A place to debate anything we want to. We'll talk Columbia campus issues. We'll talk up the homosexual problem. We'll talk China. And we'll talk without resorting to partisan rhetoric. We may be left. We may be right. But we aren't going to be quoting any party line. We're leading the discussion. But feel free to chime in. Hannity and Colmes this is not.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Chinese Bloggers: The key to an economic future

"Microsoft Defends Censoring Dissident's Blog in China," Wall Street Journal, January 6, 2006

This interesting piece describes how Microsoft recently shut down the site of an online blogger at the insistence of the Chinese government because it contained politically motivated postings that they found offensive. This is not unusual for service and content providers who operate in other nations, like China. Often these are the terms required for access to the particular market in the first place. The question I have is not whether Microsoft was right or wrong in doing this - arguments could be made on both sides (for example, while Microsoft was complicit in what many would concede to be a violation of a basic human right to free speech, its actions in promoting capitalism in the region could also be construed as eroding the very restrictions that they hesitate to fight head on...) - the question I have is how much effort and expense is China going to spend in policing the net. The sheer number of bloggers in China has balooned with incredible speed over the past few years, and more and more are pushing the limits of China's restrictive laws and getting in trouble for it. 33 MILLION.
I predict that eventually, whene the numbers are in the hundreds of millions, China is going to buckle under the sheer mass of connectivity and information dependence. Eventually it will not be able to AFFORD to silence the thoughts of dissidents, as it will require their brain power to stay competitive in the global market.
Should Microsoft have recused itself from providing services to China? Perhaps, but doing so might hurt the bloggers and dissidents as much as it would the Chinese government.
As Dr. Barnett would say, CONNECTIVITY IS KEY.


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