PRC to Hillary: Shove Yer "Information Imperialism"

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 1/22/2010 04:17:00 PM
Now it's payback time. Continuing our recent Internet in China series [1, 2, 3], we left off with me suggesting that US government action on behalf of Google was imminent. Lo and behold, the State Department recently released a plea from Missus Clinton for China to respect Internet freedom. I've long wondered why she's chosen to play second fiddle to Barack Obama, a far less formidable figure as we're beginning to find out. Now, however, we may be getting to the point where we can test Missus Clinton's mettle against the most recalcitrant foe you can possibly imagine in the PRC. In some things you can see win-win scenarios; here, they're quite difficult to imagine. Here are some excerpts from her recent speech:
During his visit to China in November, for example, President Obama held a town hall meeting with an online component to highlight the importance of the internet. In response to a question that was sent in over the internet, he defended the right of people to freely access information, and said that the more freely information flows, the stronger societies become. He spoke about how access to information helps citizens hold their own governments accountable, generates new ideas, encourages creativity and entrepreneurship. The United States belief in that ground truth is what brings me here today...

The internet has already been a source of tremendous progress in China, and it is fabulous. There are so many people in China now online. But countries that restrict free access to information or violate the basic rights of internet users risk walling themselves off from the progress of the next century. Now, the United States and China have different views on this issue, and we intend to address those differences candidly and consistently in the context of our positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship.

Now, ultimately, this issue isn’t just about information freedom; it is about what kind of world we want and what kind of world we will inhabit. It’s about whether we live on a planet with one internet, one global community, and a common body of knowledge that benefits and unites us all, or a fragmented planet in which access to information and opportunity is dependent on where you live and the whims of censors. [Take that, 30000-strong PRC censorship battalion!]

Information freedom supports the peace and security that provides a foundation for global progress. Historically, asymmetrical access to information is one of the leading causes of interstate conflict. When we face serious disputes or dangerous incidents, it’s critical that people on both sides of the problem have access to the same set of facts and opinions.
Now we receive word of the Chinese response care of yet another official mouthpiece. Like all other Chinese media, I am of course fond of the Global Times. Here, it demonizes a certain Hillary Clinton. Notably, in contrast to more measured responses of the past towards the issue, this one is quite strident in declaring the presence of "information imperialism":
The US campaign for uncensored and free flow of information on an unrestricted Internet is a disguised attempt to impose its values on other cultures in the name of democracy. The hard fact that Clinton has failed to highlight in her speech is that bulk [sic] of the information flowing from the US and other Western countries is loaded with aggressive rhetoric against those countries that do not follow their lead. In contrast, in the global information order, countries that are disadvantaged could not produce the massive flow of information required, and could never rival the Western countries in terms of information control and dissemination...

It is not because the people of China do not want free flow of information or unlimited access to Internet, as in the West. It is just because they recognize the situation that their country is forced to face. Unlike advanced Western countries, Chinese society is still vulnerable to the effect of multifarious information flowing in, especially when it is for creating disorder.

Western countries have long indoctrinated non-Western nations on the issue of freedom of speech. It is an aggressive political and diplomatic strategy, rather than a desire for moral values, that has led them to do so. The free flow of information is an universal value treasured in all nations, including China, but the US government's ideological imposition is unacceptable and, for that reason, will not be allowed to succeed.

China's real stake in the "free flow of information" is evident in its refusal to be victimized by information imperialism.
To me, this leftover Marxism is not a very cogent response. (By the way, the Global Times has an entire section devoted to Google in China propaganda.) Please review my recent post on how ICANN is relinquishing a lot of its powers to accommodate complaints about US Internet domination. Given the open-ended nature of the Internet, a lot of traffic unwanted by America is also allowed to go through--think of terrorist movements at home and abroad that are hard to shut down. On a related note, monitoring by US authorities is often done to monitor extremists online.

More importantly, China's image of "information control" by Western authorities overwhelming developing states is difficult to justify. With popular media rife with discontent with politicians the world over, why wouldn't Western authorities seek to muzzle it at every opportunity? Go figure.

Once more, the gauntlet is thrown down by China, this time for Missus Clinton to pick up. I am of the opinion that she's tougher than her boss. Remember, she once was named by Men's Journal as one of the "Toughest Guys in America." Now, show those apparatchiks who wears the pants around cyberspace, Missus C. Enough pretending that the US and China are "friendly" with one another. Make a trade case out of this. Heck, why don't you just cut crap and start fighting China already?