Monday, January 09, 2006

The China syndrome

People much smarter, and more informed, will probably have little trouble proving me wrong, but no one can defend the red herring supporters of free trade with China used to gain overwhelming Congressional approval in 1992.

We were told that exposing the Chinese to McDonald's would eventually lead to the fall of that country's hard-line Communist government. Capitalism would usher in a new century of democracy, the brochure read, freeing that country's 1.3 billion consumers, er citizens.

Of course, if that was the case, why has there been no move to engage Cuba in such a way, offering Castro's oppressed the chance to sample a Big Mac? It's all about numbers, and money: Cuba doesn't have enough of either to tempt corporate America.

With the student protests at Tiananmen Square now but a distant memory, the Chinese government seems more powerful, and in control, than ever. And who's helping them quash free expression? None other than the very companies that were supposed to expose them to the joys of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

For example, Microsoft recently admitted it would purge politically sensitive content from blogs read by users within China, according to Radio Free Asia. And Google has already tailored its Chinese product to exclude subject matter deemed undesirable to Beijing, such as overseas news organizations, human rights groups and Chinese democracy activists overseas.

Meanwhile, Cisco is supplying the Chinese government with equipment that is capable of filtering any news not acceptable to the Chinese Communist Party, independent researchers say.

Chinese Internet service providers use sophisticated filtering systems engineered by technology and software, courtesy of U.S. companies, that enables them to enter thousands of banned keywords and Web addresses for automatic blocking, according to a report in YaleGlobal's online edition. Eliminating porn is not their priority.

Bucking to greed has always cost this country, and it's happening again. We've created an emerging world power that seems to have no interest in human rights or regional stability (i.e. exerting its influence with North Korea). And with a growing economy, the people are less inclined to revolt.

All thanks to the old U.S. of A. Remember what brought down the Soviet Union? Bread lines, not The Gap.

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