Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Yahoo defends profiteering

I'm sorry, what I meant to say is "Yahoo defends freedom."

Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang defended the Internet search engine's cooperation with Chinese censorship of the Web, saying it was necessary to reach out to new users.

"We have to think of a way in which the Internet phenomenon can continue to grow and reach more users and at the same time comply with local laws," Yang said. "In places like China and other places that have different political regimes I think you'll see them trying to react and potentially regulate these kinds of activities.

"But our observation is that it is inevitable that things will become more open and free flowing."

Yahoo came under fire last year for supplying information to the Chinese government which led to the arrest of Chinese journalist Shi Tao.

Shi was sentenced to 10 years in prison for passing on a government censorship order through his Yahoo e-mail account.

We've heard this argument before, when the U.S. and China negotiated a free trade agreement. "Capitalism will open China to democracy," skeptics were assured, but more than a decade in we've seen no erosion of that communist dictatorship's hold on power. If anything, we've propped them up.

Hardly a week goes by without news of another democratic activist being detained by Chinese authorities. Sure, those dissidents might be able to buy a Big Mac now, but little else has changed.

Again, this is all about consumers. Why don't we trade with Cuba? Because they don't have a billion people on that island. If their population rivaled China's, we'd all be smoking Cuban cigars right now.

So don't try telling me that cooperating with fascists will somehow spur free speech. The evidence is lacking.

1 comment:

  1. There's a grain of truth of the idea that we'd be trading with Cuba if that country has 1 billion people. The reality is you can't ignore 1/4 of the worlds population. I am for sanctions on Cuba and for trade with China. Though the two seem irreconcilable here's my thoughts on the matter. China is evolving. Certainly it's authoritarian and Human Rights are not valued there but China has undergone certain economic reforms that is what's growing the Chinese middle class. The hope is that as that middle class grows in importance and power that they will pressure the goverment towards democratic reforms. This is only possible because elements of capitalism have been unapologetically implemented in China. In Cuba the ruler has not changed or moderated. There is still no private ownership of capital or businesses in Cuba. The healf hearted reforms of the mid 90s have been rolled back thanks to the influx of Venzuelan cash and oil. Investing in Cuba IS propping up the regime because the regime owns everything and all dollars end up back in the regime's coffers. Investing in China is creating an entrepreneurial class that will bring China into the 21st Century and allow it hopefully break the chains of the communist political institutions. As far as Yahoo and Google go I don't think they should allow the Chinese to dictate censorship rules to them.